This gathering of presidential foibles and fancies covers the gamut, from George W. the First to Barack.
Each is set as either a poem (rhymed and free verse) or a prose poem, and all display a handling of language that both is comfortable and exhibits a certain degree of flash. Of one-eyed James Buchanan: “So he cocked his head to focus. / He could tilt his view toward a distant star, / ogle an ash on a nearby cigar, / or peer halfway to Zanzibar. / Was there anything he didn’t notice?” Neubecker’s illustrations are wonderful puddles of colorful personality, true to the text but amplifying it (or further poking a sharp stick into the presidential eye). The only concern here is that some of the presidential tics are a bit dull. Of course, no one will deny the import of blubbery William Howard Taft wedging himself into the White House tub and needing a team of assistants to extricate him. Or T. Jefferson the inventor, J.Q. Adams the skinny dipper or Z. Taylor’s nearly missing the presidency for want of a stamp. But that J. Adams was chubby, J. Madison was small and M. Fillmore is forgotten? There’s little to spark even a muted guffaw or a sympathetic nod.
In the end, however, they all testify to something important: Presidents are only men (so far, anyway) and capable of every mortal weakness and weirdness. (Picture book/poetry. 6-9)