Our Country's Presidents - 4th edition
written by Ann Bausum
2013 (National Geographic Children's Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
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When I was young, I found refuge from my brother and four sisters in the library. I would stay for hours and be entertained by the books. My favorite section was the reference section. It was there that you found the humongous books that were desirous since you could not check them out and take them home. If you could find a big comfy chair and one of these books, you were set for an hour or two. Our Country's Presidents is one of those books.
The book starts with a foreword by President Obama, who talks about reading biographies of Abraham Lincoln when he was a student. That's one reason why books like this are valuable. Many of our leaders were inspired by the story of someone who came before them. The rest of the book is divided into six sections. Each section features biographies of the presidents in chronological order and three or four special interest articles. The first section, The Presidency and How It Grew, tells about Presidents George Washington through Andrew Jackson. There are also articles about the building of the White House, the powers of the Executive Branch and White House traditions like the Easter Egg Roll and state dinners. Each presidential biography starts with a full page reproduction of the president's official portrait. On the opposite page is a fact box that gives several pieces of information about the president and his family. The essays are where you will find a mix of the known and unknown. For example, it is fairly well known by now that George Washington did not cut down a cherry tree as was claimed by an overenthusiastic early biographer. What I did not know is that Washington had agreed to take charge of the Army after finishing his second term as president. Tensions with France subsided and Washington was able to complete his service from Mount Vernon. That's pretty fascinating stuff. 15th president James Buchanan had one good eye for far vision and one for close vision. He would tilt his head depending on what he was trying to see. These are the interesting stories that make us love nonfiction.
It is the season for writing and reading biographies, so Our Country's Presidents will be embraced by students who are looking for information. Students could also read a single biography and list the positives and negatives of each president's term in office. If you are looking for a comprehensive overview of the presidency that is student friendly, Our Country's Presidents should win your vote.