Saturday, October 15, 2016

Running for Office (FAMILY magazine reviews)

          As we approach this historic Election Day, consider this small collection of excellent books to share with your child(ren). Throughout the history of the United States, people have fought for freedom and the right to vote. Let’s inform our children, and ourselves as we help to increase understanding. As citizens of our great country, we are the decision-makers; we choose our leaders.
          These books present a complex subject with sometimes-comic good humor. They can help us reflect on our country’s past with light-hearted cheerfulness as we move into the future with energy and good will. 

Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham           
          “Grace Campbell could not believe her eyes” when she learns the U. S. has never had a female president. Other students laugh when she decides she wants to be the first. Grace begins her candidacy in the school’s mock election against a popular opponent, Thomas Cobb. 
          Each student in the two participating classes (except Grace and Thomas) draws from a hat. They choose one state name - with its accompanying electoral votes. The two office seekers come up with campaign slogans, make promises, posters and buttons, and meet with their “constituents.” 
          Author DiPucchio gives readers a timely story. It features independent thinkers, and is matched perfectly with artist Pham’s bright illustrations. The paintings reflect a multi-ethnic US culture.
The scoreboard in the gym keeps track of the totals during the Election Day assembly. Each student, representing a state, casts his or her electoral vote.  Very nearly tied -- Thomas with 268, Grace with 267 votes -- the final state, Wyoming (the equality state and historically, the first state to give women the vote) decides the winner. 
Elements of making history and “calculating” the odds are important features in this lighthearted picture book. Both students show the confidence and hard work required by running for office. An author’s note at the end gives additional background material explaining the Electoral College. 

Hyperion, $16.99 
Interest Level: Grades 1-3.

Vote! by Eileen Christelow
           For this important election year, Christelow’s bright pen and ink acrylic cartoons bump each other for attention in this instructive picture book. The storyline follows a mayoral contest. Meanwhile, balloon comments from the characters in the illustrations supply additional explanations. Together these sharpen readers’ grasp of the details involved in the race. Voter registration, voter rights, campaigning, political parties, and pollsters are all part of one local race for mayor. Debates on the issues, volunteering, ballots, polling booths and even recounts add information.
            The candidate’s neighbors, family and even the dogs join in the discussions and politicking. In this way readers are given several views into the complexities of what happens in an election. Back material includes: a short list of briefly defined terms, a condensed, yet informative Timeline of Voting Rights, a few well-chosen questions and answers to explain More About Political Parties, and a page of websites. This is an entertaining and interesting choice for school and home.

Clarion Books, $7.99 (paperback)
Interest Level: Grades 1-3.

A Woman for President by Kathleen Krull 
Illustrated by Jane Dyer
            Not only was she the first woman to run for the presidency of the United States, Victoria Woodhull was also the first woman to have a seat on the stock exchange. She was also the first to own a newspaper, and the first to speak before Congress.
She was the seventh of ten children born into a poor family. However, by the age of eight, Victoria was supporting her family as a child preacher.
            As a young woman, she became a millionaire: She offered financial advice from the spirit world to Cornelius Vanderbilt – a wealthy businessman. With this earned money and power, she was able to challenge society’s harsh limits on women.
All but erased from history, Victoria acted by announcing herself as a candidate for the presidency. She even paid her own newspaper to publicize her campaign. The Equal Rights Party nominated her during the convention she organized and funded. This was a dramatic and unheard of event. 
            Talented illustrator Dyer’s luminous watercolors supply a realistic period feel. The artwork blends smoothly with award-winning biographer Krull’s carefully researched text. This biography is a compelling personal story from U. S. history. (An author’s note and bibliography give additional information about the election, her life after, and the boundaries she crossed.) 

Walker & Company, $8.99 (paperback) $16.95 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Grades 2-3.

Additional selections:

So You Want to Be President by Judith St George
Illustrated by David Small 
Philomel $17.99
Interest Level: Grades 2-3 (A bit outdated, but still excellent.) 

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone
Illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon 
Henry Holt $8.99 (paperback)$18.99 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Grades 1-3 

I Could Do That: Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote 
by Linda Arms White
Illustrations by Nancy Carpenter  
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17.99
Interest Level: Grades 2-3

For older readers:

The Kid Who Ran for President  (156 pp) and 
The Kid Who Became President (215 pp), both written by Dan Gutman
Scholastic, $6.99
Interest Level: Grades 4-6.

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