One-Minute Book Reviews

September 12, 2008

A Boy Runs for President of the U.S. in the Picture Book ‘President Pennybaker’

A young candidate campaigns in Iowa, New Hampshire and other politically influential states after setting his sights on the White House

President Pennybaker. By Kate Feiffer. Illustrated by Diane Goode. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, 32 pp., $16.99. Ages 3 and up.

By Janice Harayda

It’s probably safe to say that many adults would find it easier explain to young children how babies are made than how U.S. presidents are made. Libraries and bookstores abound with good picture books on conception, pregnancy and birth. But how many show the importance of putting up posters, taking part in debates and campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire?

Most authors seem to assume that presidential campaigns are too complex a topic for young children and that they may write only about elections that occur in school or neighborhood settings. These writers may be giving too little credit to their potential audience. Child psychologists tell us that children are aware of changes in their environment even if they don’t understand them. So they’ll notice if campaign signs are sprouting on lawns, Dad is wearing a shiny red-white-and-blue lapel button, or Mom is spending a lot of time on the telephone asking people she doesn’t know for money.

Kate Feiffer and Diane Goode cast a national election in terms young children can understand in President Pennybaker, the story of a boy who sets his sights on the White House after his father’s edicts convince him that life is unfair and that he can bring about his own form of social justice. Luke does many things that adult candidates do: He sets up a campaign office, puts up posters and solicits contributions. And as he travels to politically important states like Iowa and New Hampshire, he makes promises he’ll never be able to keep. Campaigning as the candidate of the Birthday Party, Luke vows that under his administration kids will get to eat cake and open gifts every day. After winning by a landslide, he realizes that he’s in over his head and resigns after a week on the job, leaving Oval Office to his hand-picked vice-president — his dog, Lily.

Goode leavens Feiffer’s somewhat abrupt ending with entertaining watercolors that set President Pennybaker mostly in the early 20th century — when voters tooled around in Model Ts – except for a few anachronisms such as television sets and a female governor of California. Her pictures also suggest some of the comedy in Luke’s serious motive for seeking the White House. In real life, when children ask their elders why people run for president, the adults tend to fall back on bromides like, “They want to make the world a better place.” That explanation is far too dull and abstract for many children. Luke’s rationale for his candidacy is likely to be much more appealing to its intended audience: Life is not fair. What 4- or 5-year old couldn’t relate that?

Best line/picture: All of Goode’s pictures show her flair for retro details, but Bruce Springsteen fans may especially like the page that shows Luke campaigning on “on the beach at the Jersey shore” in what looks like old Asbury Park.

Worst line/picture: Anachronisms such as the television set are clearly intentional and often amusing but weren’t essential to the story.

Recommendation? A good choice for parents who want to explain to young children why Dad starts swearing every time he sees a certain candidate on television. This book may especially interest schools and libraries in the places where Luke campaigns or whose elected officials are mentioned in it — the cities of Detroit, Cincinnati, New York and Washington, D.C., and the states of Iowa, Maine, Kansas, Colorado, California, New Jersey and New Hampshire.

Editor: Paula Wiseman

Published: August 2008 www.katefeiffer.com and www.dianegoode.com. Feiffer is a Massachusetts filmmaker who also wrote Henry the Dog With No Tail, illustrated by Jules Feiffer. Goode is a New Jersey artist who won a Caldecott Honor for her art for Cynthia Rylant’s When I Was Young in the Mountains and also illustrated Mind Your Manners, a guide to table manners for young children www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2006/12/23/.

Furthermore: Click here to read about other new children’s books about elections, including Rosemary Wells’s Otto Runs for President www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/09/05/.

Reviews of books for children or teenagers appear every Saturday on One-Minute Book Reviews. To avoid missing these reviews, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

September 4, 2008

Pundit Hart Seely Lampoons McCain and Obama in Verse in ‘Mrs. Goose Goes to Washington: Nursery Rhymes for the Political Barnyard’

Filed under: Humor,Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:44 pm
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Last year Hart Seely tweaked John McCain, Barak Obama and others in Mrs. Goose Goes to Washington: Nursery Rhymes for the Political Barnyard (Free Press, 128 pp., $12.95), a tart collection of parodies that may be due for a sales spike. His “Old John McCain” begins:

Old John McCain
Had a very fine brain
What a very fine brain had he,
He went to ’Nam,
Then he came back home,
And he ran with the GOP.
He reached for the sky,
And then faced the lie,
That a little bit nutty was he, was he …

Other parodies in the book appear on the Simon & Schuster site www.simonsays.com/content/book.cfm?tab=1&pid=534287&agid=2. In its wisdom, the publisher has not posted the poems about Obama and McCain nor has it enabled the “Search Inside” tool on Amazon. But you can read part of Seely’s “Hey! Let’s Vote Obama!” in the original review of Mrs. Goose Goes to Washington oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/06/17/.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

May 7, 2008

Books the Candidates Need #1 – Hillary Clinton – ‘How to Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers’

Filed under: How to,Humor — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:53 am
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This is the first in a series of three posts this week that will suggest books for the U.S. presidential candidates on Wednesday (Hillary Clinton), Thursday (John McCain) and Friday (Barak Obama).

Hillary Clinton will have to do more than wrest the nomination from Barak Obama if she stays in the presidential race: She’ll have to keep Bill from sabotaging her chances by going off message again. That’s why she needs How Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers (Workman, $9.95), by Karen Salmansohn with art by Alison Seiffer. This guide tells women how to recognize men such as The Hound, who can’t help chasing anything that moves, and offers tips on coping with them. “From day one, you must seize the leadership role,” Salmansohn says. “Never be extra-nice to a dog who’s misbehaving in hopes of winning him over … he’ll get the hint who’s boss.” If he runs away, don’t panic but stay calm and act like you’re having lots of fun without him: “Soon he’ll be totting eagerly back.” A tip that may prove useful at $1000-a-head fundraisers: “Dogs like to eat out of your plate.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 22, 2008

“I’ve never seen one that … old” – A Second Look at ‘Primary Colors’

Filed under: Novels,Paperbacks,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:08 am
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In a famous scene in Primary Colors, a middle-aged political strategist whips out his penis at the headquarters of a presidential campaign in an attempt to lure young press aide to his hotel room. She looks at it and says, “I’ve never seen one that … old.” The strategist turns red and runs out of the room. Campaign aides – who have been eavesdropping – cheer. Tomorrow One-Minute Book Reviews will reconsider Primary Colors, the 1996 bestseller by Joe Klein, a Washington journalist who initially used the byline “Anonymous. The novel satirizes the first presidential campaign of a Democratic governor named Jack Stanton, stand-in for Bill Clinton. (c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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