One-Minute Book Reviews

September 5, 2008

Children’s Storybooks About Elections, Presidential and Otherwise

Filed under: Children's Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:13 pm
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I try never to miss Meghan Cox Gurdon’s fortnightly reviews of children’s books in the Weekend Edition of the Wall Street Journal, and not just because they show consistently good taste and news judgment: Gurdon is a morally fearless critic who has the number of publishers who try to pass off patronizing twaddle as art. Here is the beginning her review of six storybooks about presidential politics in the Aug. 23–24 Journal:

“Parents keen to make presidential politics ‘relevant’ to their young children will find abundant help in 2008’s extra-large batch of campaign-themed storybooks. But will the tykes care? Children like a bit of fun in their picture books, yet the adult temptation to moralize seems, in most cases, to overwhelm any possibility of an engaging tale.

“Consider, for instance, the story of how a virtuous underdog rises to leadership in Rosemary Wells’s Otto Runs for President (Scholastic). Interestingly, the book is dedicated to Elizabeth Edwards, wife of a onetime Democratic underdog whose virtue now seems … somewhat dog-eared.

“The setting here is a school, all the candidates for president are canines, and the didacticism is as thick as the paint in the illustrations ….”

I admire Rosemary Wells greatly, but Gurdon defines her terms so clearly and writes so persuasively that her review left me in no rush to read about Otto. Gurdon was also underwhelmed by Kelly DiPuccio’s Grace for President and Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s Max for President. (Lane Smith’s Madam President not quite as “morally earnest.” ) So which books about electoral politics might children enjoy more? Next Saturday I’ll review one of them, Kate Feiffer and Diane Goode’s President Pennybaker, also included in Gurdon’s roundup

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. I see Gordon also wrote about Doreen Cronin’s Duck for President, which is the only one of these I’ve read.

    Comment by speedytexaslibrarian — September 6, 2008 @ 7:43 am | Reply

  2. What did you think of Duck for President? Would you recommend it to parents or others looking for a book about the election?

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — September 6, 2008 @ 9:02 am | Reply

  3. Not really. It’s a cute (but rather cynical) story, but a child won’t really learn anything about the election process, or being president for that matter. Duck is successively elected farmer, governor, and president, but he quickly discovers being a leader is no fun and leaves someone else in charge when he moves on to the next office.

    Comment by speedytexaslibrarian — September 9, 2008 @ 3:49 pm | Reply

  4. A thousand thanks. Hope I can take a look at that one before I review “President Pennybaker” (which does have virtues) on Saturday.

    One problem with all of these books may be that it’s hard to explain the electoral process — which is ultimately about abstractions like what’s “right” or “wrong” for the country — to 3- or 4-year-olds, who are so focused on concrete realities.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — September 9, 2008 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

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