Sunday, February 6, 2011

What Does the President Look Like?

What Does the President Look Like?
written by Jane Hampton Cook; illustrated by Adam Ziskie
(Kane Miller) 2011
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher; Publication date: February 21st

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 What Does the President Look Like? is a fascinating look at the history of visual media in the United States. Each segment of the book focuses on a president and a prominent piece of visual media of that time period. For example, George Washington and paintings are paired together in the beginning of the book. There is time line information about Gilbert Stuart's portrait of President Washington and brief narratives as well. Other visual media featured include political cartoons, campaign posters, photographs, stereographs, silent and talking movies, television, web pages, and digital cameras. Each piece of media is presented through the lens of how it was used by the presidents. Author Jane Hampton Cook, who served in the White House, also explains how several of these formats work.

You could have rich discussions after reading aloud this book. With the beginning of the 2012 presidential campaign not that far away, this would be an excellent resource to help explain specifically to children why visual media is an important factor in how our leaders are elected and generally how this medium affects our lives. This could lead to discussions and research on the role of advertising in society. I would also like to use this book to prompt students to tackle the question of whether looks really do matter in our culture. History can be an interesting subject when you have terrific books such as What Does the President Look Like?

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