Presidential portraits in light verse.
Raczka adopts the four-line, limericklike clerihew to skewer each of the U.S. presidents. Assisted by brilliantly expressive pen-and-ink caricatures from award-winning cartoonist Burr, Raczka makes the most of historical trivia, lampooning a wide variety of presidential idiosyncrasies. Sometimes he pokes fun at daily habits: “Fitness nut John Quincy Adams / lived by the words, ‘Up and at ’em.’ / Every morning, right at dawn, / he swam the Potomac with no clothes on.” Other times he highlights significant events: “Rough Rider Theodore Roosevelt / was shot near the heart, which he hardly felt. / The bullet was slowed by a fifty-page speech, / which Teddy still gave. That’s a ‘tough’ you can’t teach.” Throughout, Raczka succeeds in portraying these historic leaders of the free world in a light seldom seen. To add to the fun, an appendix provides brief back stories to the historical tidbits inspiring each poem, ranging from educational miscellany like the origin of Barack Obama’s “Yes we can” campaign slogan in the motto of the United Farm Workers Union to such mindless trivia as 340-pound William Howard Taft and his infamous bathtub.
Lighthearted and entertaining, Raczka’s irreverent quatrains show middle graders no figure is too lofty for some poetic play. (Informational poetry. 8-12)