Debut author Gavris and illustrator McCann (The Sick Bug Goes to School, 2010) team up in this alphabet book for older readers to introduce concepts of civic responsibility and political elections.
Beginning with “Aa is for American Elections,” Gavris and McCann introduce the idea of democracy and inform readers that their votes can help change laws and policies: “That is pretty powerful!” says the narrator. From ballots, conventions, and debates to the Internet and nomination papers, the book covers myriad topics directly and indirectly connected to governance. Sometimes, the author stretches the alphabet theme in order to convey important ideas; e.g., “Jj is for Judge for Yourself” seems a reach. “Xx is for eXit Polls,” however, is a sensible way to include a difficult letter with a relevant topic. “Zz is for Zig Zag,” when discussing how candidates “will be zigzagging through neighborhoods” to get votes, is an unlikely conclusion for the book. There’s plenty of great trivia here, like why the donkey and elephant became symbols for the major political parties and how Uncle Sam became an American icon, and adults as well as children may well learn something about the election process. The illustrations appropriately capture not only the diversity of American citizens, but the pomp of certain topics and the ridiculousness of others (voters who participated in the 2000 presidential election may groan at the memory of the hanging chad in “Rr is for Recount”). Despite the full-page, full-color illustrations, which show people of various ethnicities, abilities, and ages, this picture book may be too advanced for early readers. Also, the decision to organize the book alphabetically by topic (rather than as a step-by-step explanation of the election process) may confuse even older children. Still, the rich information creatively portrayed will captivate adventurous readers.
Young politicians and political activists will find a great resource here, and future citizens from a number of backgrounds will be glad to see themselves in the pictures.