An “Un-Official Oval Office Scrapbook,” built around video featurettes on each of our presidents.
Production values rule. An elaborately designed opening animation smoothly gives way to 44 uncluttered “page spreads” that each contain a period portrait, a fact box and a handful of pop-up asides (“Octodad” John Tyler “had eight children, the most of any President”). There are also a historical or fanciful sound bite (“Go ahead, make my next term,” proclaims two-timer Grover Cleveland) and a resizable two- to six-minute video. These last offer glib overviews of each presidential administration paired with lively mixes of caricatures, contemporary art and talking-head comments from a range of modern pundits and scholars. Except for a common but specious claim that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to “end slavery in the United States” and an entry for Obama that ends before the recent elections, each profile presents a relatively accurate picture. They are mostly positive in tone, but there are mentions at least of such lowlights as Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, Nixon’s “crimes” and Clinton’s “inappropriate relationship.” A full-screen, slide-out collective portrait gallery serves as an index.
A painless, often entertaining way to get broad handles on our chief executives’ achievements and challenges. (iPad informational app. 9-12)