KID PRESIDENTS

TRUE TALES OF CHILDHOOD FROM AMERICA'S PRESIDENTS

Stories from their child and teen years reveal that U.S. presidents were kids like any others—with hobbies and families and escapades both amusing and alarming.

Robert Schnakenberg, author of Secret Lives of Great Authors (illustrated by Mario Zucca, 2008) and similar titles for adults, uses a pseudonym for this entertaining collection of presidential trivia. Embellishing the story of Washington and the cherry tree with a fire-breathing dinosaur, he points out that that oft-told anecdote is fantasy. Instead, he offers 16 “true tales” organized into three sections, along with additional factoids about games and pranks, early jobs and mishaps, as well as teachers’ comments about our nation’s leaders. He rounds out his collection with a final surprising fact about each of the 44 presidents (Cleveland gets two for his two nonconsecutive terms). With examples that include Grant’s early horsemanship, Obama’s travails as a new boy in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the nearsighted Reagan’s butterfly collection, the author presents engaging vignettes of these men as boys. Horner’s full-color cartoons add to the humor. For young readers wanting to know more about individual presidents, the author provides suggested titles. Troublingly, though, there is no indication of the author’s sources, either in the book or on the publisher’s website. These tales are pleasingly told, but readers cannot know where the facts end and embellishment begins. Young readers deserve to know that, too.

Lively but not reliable. (index) (Collective biography. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59474-731-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

50 IMPRESSIVE KIDS AND THEIR AMAZING (AND TRUE!) STORIES

From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

more