I've confessed before that I don't do a lot of browsing at the library. Instead, I return my books, pick up my holds and I'm on to the next stop. But I had a few minutes the other day at the beautiful I-wish-I-could-live-there Children's Room at the 42nd Street library and serendipitously happened upon not one but two books about presidents (and/or first ladies) to complement the one I'd put on hold, just in time for Presidents' Day.
What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanoch Piven is comprised of portraits of selected presidents, along with snippets of biographical information. But these aren't your staid presidential portraits. These are collages, made with materials that Piven thought conveyed the essence of each president, like peanuts for Jimmy Carter's nose or jelly beans for Ronald Reagan's features. The biographical information isn't just the usual historical fare either but tidbits that are interesting enough to entice a child into learning more. I love the double meaning of the title! The book includes photos or paintings of all the presidents through publication date (2004) at the end. When I asked my daughter what she noticed about them she said, "They all have white faces." I pointed out that that is true no longer (a new paperback edition has come out which includes Barack Obama.), but something true then still is: they are all men.
And speaking of the lack of female presidents, Doreen Rappaport's Eleanor: Quiet No More is a wonderful introduction to a great First Lady and great humanitarian. A picture book biography which follows Eleanor from her birth to the end of her life, it includes many of her famous sayings, like "Do something every day that scares you" although it omits the famous "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
Finally, I had put the justly-praised Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman on hold and picked it just a few days ago. In her signature style, Kalman tells Lincoln's story and manages to include just the right amount of historical context combined with musings about his family life and inner that a child can relate to such as "On the day he was elected, I bet Mary made his favorite vanilla cake."
My 6-year-old, no history buff, loved all of these, and even my 4-year-old sat through them happily.
What are your favorite books about presidents or first ladies?