Thursday, November 24, 2016

Grover Cleveland, Again! by Ken Burns, illustrated by Gerald Kelley

When I saw this nominated for Cybils, my first thought was - the last thing I want to do right now is read about the presidents and/or elections! But once I got into it I was fascinating and intrigued. While I can't say I really learned anything new, Burns' style was what grabbed me and made me interested in introducing this to my young readers at the library.

Burns profiles each president with their birth, family, party, nickname and other interesting facts, but also writes a brief and intelligent piece on the legacy of each man, in and out of office. What I found interesting was how Burns doesn't gloss over the shortcomings but finds something about each that stands out and plays a part in American history. He talks about the controversial legacy of Rutherford B. Hayes, who supported the rights of former slaves and Native Americans, but did not oppose "Jim Crow" laws. He talks about how Chester A. Arthur, who had a history of graft and crooked politics, changed when he became president and worked to make the government less corrupt. Burns addresses the complex issues presidents faced - struggling economy, racial issues, tariffs, and more - in an unbiased manner, talking about how difficult it is to find solutions that work for everyone and how the presidents made their decisions.

Back matter includes a selected list of museums, libraries, and historic sites, a detailed glossary, and acknowledgements. The book opens with a note from the author about his purpose in writing the book. The book itself is oversized with each spread including a large oil painting in the background and rich colors and details.

Verdict: It's always difficult to purchase books on the presidents, since they get outdated so quickly, but this is one that I think will appeal to both children and adults and have a wide audience for years to come. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780385392099; Published 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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