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FIRST MOTHERS by Beverly Gherman


by Beverly Gherman & illustrated by Julie Downing

Age Range: 7 - 11

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-22301-8
Publisher: Clarion

Behind every great man….And behind many of our presidents, there’s also an unknown woman. This book sheds light on our leaders’ mothers and how their influences possibly shaped the founding dads.

If they care, browsers will eke out at least one factoid they never knew about each presidential mom, even famous ones. Some tidbits are intriguing—Nancy Lincoln’s prowess as a wrestler, Malvina Arthur’s efforts to prove Chester was American-born, and Elizabeth Harrison’s warnings to Benjamin to avoid cucumbers. Many share commonalities. While some came from privilege, many raised their (usually) large families more humbly, even in poverty. Many mothers were religious and passed on strict moral values to their progeny, including an abhorrence of social injustice. Some profiles are more detailed than others, perhaps due to spottier information in older historical records. The mothers of the more recent presidents are given slightly fuller portrayals. Occasional captions and cartoon-y speech balloons add supplemental information. Some facts are simplistic, even incorrect, as in the case of Warren Harding, “one of our worst presidents,” whose corrupt administration is passed off “because he did not stand up for his ideas.” Sadly, there are several instances of disputed or inaccurate dates in various profiles. The watercolor-and–colored-pencil illustrations are bland, with many women looking identical, the passage of time marked only by changes in fashions, hairstyles and “props.”

There’s not much for kids about presidential mothers, and at least this book covers every White House resident so far. (bibliography, author’s note) (Nonfiction. 7-11)