Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Founding Fathers!

The Founding Fathers!
written by Jonah Winter; illustrated by Barry Blitt
2015 (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
Source: Orange County Public Library

In truth, the men we now call the Founding Fathers were a bunch of guys
with stomach issues and wooden legs and problematic personalities-who sometimes couldn't stand to be in the same room with each other.

I turn the front cover and see the opening two page spread. On the left, labeled the Varsity Squad, are seven historical figures with George Washington at the top. On the right, the Junior Varsity squad, also seven figures with Samuel Adams the captain of the team. Right away, I know the players and that humor is going to play a big part of this book. Next, there is a Preamble where author Jonah Winter explains that these men may not be who you thought they were. Yes, they were very smart, but also problematic personalities. Writing "all men are created equal" and being slave holders is one large example of this. They argued constantly about the direction of this new country. Should we have a central government or should the states govern themselves? Following the Preamble, there are two page spreads devoted to each of these fourteen figures. On the left, there is a portrait of the figure showing an aspect of their personality. Patrick Henry strikes an actor's pose in his portrait. On the opposite side of the spread, there is a collection of information arranged like a baseball card with a short biography at the top and facts listed below. The biography is written in a conversational style that is informative and humorous. I thought the facts were fascinating. Following the Founding Father features is a First Amendment to the Preamble which gives more information about important topics of the time (religion, slavery, states rights).

I think this book can be a valuable addition for any class that studies U.S. history. I appreciate information about some of the lesser known "fathers" that you won't find in most other books on this subject. In the elementary classroom, this would be good for a biography study (think wax museums) or talking about the origins of the U.S. government. I also think this book could be valuable for working on opinion writing. For example, Jonah Winter refers to Thomas Jefferson as America's Coolest Dreamer. I wouldn't use cool to describe Thomas Jefferson. Brilliant, yes. But he was also deeply flawed and difficult.

Combining information in an engaging format with humorous illustrations (Ben Franklin as Paul McCartney is worth the price of admission alone), The Founding Fathers! is a resource that makes history appealing to both young and old readers.

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