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Book Review: Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 4.28.51 PMKid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents
David Stabler, Illustrations by Doogie Horner
Quirk Books
October 2014

ARC provided by LibraryThing

We should all go ahead and get one thing out of the way, history can be boring as sin for young kids to study.  Oh I know, its exciting and there is some great stuff in it that kids would enjoy.  But the people that write the history books? And the *cough* politicians and people *cough* that try to rewrite history?  Yeah…they forget how much fun history really is and get stuck on trying to make people memorize facts and figures, instead of remembering that the past can be not only a great teacher, but fun as well.  And that’s where books like “Kid Presidents” come in.

In this book David Stabler brings to life stories from sixteen different presidents, including our current one Barack Obama, from when they were kids.  And while others have done this type of thing before, they all tend to focus on the same boring story, like George Washington and the cherry tree or Abraham Lincoln and his quest to end vampires…wait neither of those is real? Well dang.  Oh well, Stabler has done his research and brings to life stories that ARE real, strange, and just…normal that readers of all ages will enjoy.  I mean I learned a lot about the presidents that I hadn’t known before.  For example, did you know that George Washington was almost apprenticed to the British Navy before his mom stepped in and put a stop to it?  Or that he helped create some of the early maps of Virginia instead?  Its true! Even more importantly though, Stabler makes it a point to show how the presidents were just like everyone else growing up.  They struggled with homework, got into fights with their siblings, drove their teachers and parents nuts, and had to do stuff they hated, but they still managed to grow up and hold the most important office in the US.  Imagine the joy and aspirations so many young children will get reading about past presidents.  And wonder if one day they will join their ranks.  The only complaint that I have is that Stabler only writes about sixteen of the presidents.  While he presents interesting tidbits and facts about all of them throughout the book, I would have loved to see more stories of our past leaders.

One of the things that helps bring this book to life, are the great illustrations that Doogie Horner provides throughout. With a style and movement that reminds me of Charles Schulz, Horner captures the essence of the people that we meet making them feel like the kids next door.  For example, within the story Ulysses Grant, one of the illustrations captures Grant at the age of eight buying a horse from a  wily farmer.  The illustration captures the precocious, but studious nature of the young grant and portrays the farmer as a somewhat rascally, but one that is basically good at heart.  Trust me, that’s a lot to try to convey in one image but Horner does a good job of it.  The one complaint that I have is about the book cover itself.  The only illustration that looks like it was done by Horner is the one of Teddy Roosevelt.  The other ones present a caricature of the adult president face, situated on a child’s body.  Which is just really, really creep.  I’m not sure what led to this style change, but I would have far preferred to see the illustrations as they were in the book.

Although the book has some minor flaws, by and large I recommend it without hesitation.  Not just to young readers, but all ages as even adults will learn something new about our past presidents.  I hope that Stable and Horner are able to do another book featuring new stories about other presidents and that this is the first in a series.  I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

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