So You Want to Be President?

So You Want to Be President?

by David Small, Judith St. George
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Trade Paperback, 52 pages
Current Retail Price: $4.95
Not in stock

So you think you can president? You're not alone. Forty plus other men before you have thought so too. They come from varied walks of life, professions, backgrounds. Some have a lot more in common than others. One thing they all had in common was the responsibility to govern the United States of America, and they all swore an oath to protect and respect the American people. Some failed to keep that promise, but the best presidents are the ones who did. If you want to be the president, here are some of the men you can learn from.

David Small drew inspiration from political cartoons for his illustrations. Thus all the faces of the presidents are caricatured and the illustrations are often set in absurd or campy situations. It's interesting to note that the 2004 edition was updated to include a big-eared George W. Bush, who is squeezed into the empty spaces on his relevant pages.

So You Want to Be President is a book that tries to stay politics-free, despite the subject matter. The stories, quotes and trivia serve to humanize the presidents in a way that's relevant to children. However, the book tends to gloss over some of the more difficult parts of the job. It focuses mostly on anecdotes and the perks of being president rather than discussing the actual job requirements of a president, the branch of government that the president belongs to, or even the day-to-day duties and decisions a president must make.

Try as it might to keep to the shallow end of the subject, political bias inevitably creeps in. A sly remark is made about William Harrison being born rich and campaigning under a "log cabin and hard cider slogan." A divisive joke is made about Herbert Hoover's dog being a Democrat since he disliked his Republican master. FDR's problematic social programs are characterized as "soup and bread for the hungry, jobs for the jobless, and funds for the elderly." Abraham Lincoln is overtly lionized.

The book also takes time to point out that no "woman... person of color... person who wasn't a Protestant or a Roman catholic has been president." The accompanying illustration shows us former presidential hopefuls Jesse Jackson and Geraldine Ferraro standing behind vip ropes, looking on at the presidential party happening without them. This would, of course, be proved wrong four years after the book's updated publish date.

Despite some shortcomings, the book ends with the affirmation that the best presidents were the ones with the country as their first priority, and that those who wish to seek the land's highest office should do likewise. A young reader who truly wants to be president is going to have a lot more reading to do, but for those who simply want a light introduction to the president's names and faces it's worth it to pick up this cleverly illustrated Caldecott medalist.

Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time.
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FLAWS: Worldview
Summary: Light introduction to forty-two U.S. presidents, with some subtle political bias.

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