Monday, February 20, 2017

Book Review: Our Country's Presidents by Ann Bausum

Our Country's Presidents, by Ann Bausum
2017, 224p, Non-Fiction
My Rating=3 Stars
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, which did not affect my review in any way

National Geographic presents the 43 individuals who have led the U.S., plus America's newest commander-in-chief, in this up-to-date, authoritative, and lavishly illustrated family, school, and library reference. It features comprehensive profiles of the 43 former presidents along with timelines and descriptions of crucial events during their terms. Information about the 2016 president-elect is also included.

Thematic spreads cover a variety of topics from the history of voting rights to writing a presidential letter. Full-page portraits, famous quotes, and fascinating facts help kids get to know each leader. This new volume is a fascinating read and excellent reference for students and kids of all ages.

I was mixed on this book. First of all, it is a beautiful, high quality book, full of pictures, quotes, and other interesting tidbits on the presidency, political parties, Electoral College, first ladies, and much more. There's a section at the beginning which shares how the book is organized so you can use it in the way that works best for you. Each bio has a fact box which features the president's signature, as well as interesting facts about each president.

I'm always a little bit leery when reading books like this as they sometimes will be slanted one way or the other. Unfortunately, this one has that slant. Some of the presidential bios lean more towards facts, background, and achievements of the president. As I read about our more modern presidents, there was a definite bias which was disappointing to me. Even though some of the bios fall flat to me, there are sections of this book I will use with my children.

Ann Bausum writes about history for readers of all ages from her home in southern Wisconsin. Her works often focus on under-told stories from the past, and she frequently explores issues of social justice.

Her newest title, The March Against Fear (National Geographic: 2017), is her third work to examine the civil rights movement in the American South. In the case of these and other books, Bausum strives to bring the nation’s social justice history to life in ways that empower and inspire readers young and old alike. Her previous title, Stonewall (Viking: 2015), is among the first nonfiction books to introduce teens to gay rights history. Previous works have explored voting rights, immigration, and free speech, among other topics.

The almost-forgotten story of Stubby lured Bausum away from social justice history temporarily. She wrote twin titles about the stray dog smuggled to Europe during World War I who returned to a hero’s welcome. Both books were published in 2014 by National Geographic: Sergeant Stubby (for adult readers) and Stubby the War Dog (for children).

In the spring of 2017, the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C., will honor the body of Bausum’s work by presenting her with its venerable Nonfiction Award. This award recognizes the consistent commendation earned by her individual titles through the years. Bausum’s books have appeared consistently on lists of recommended and notable titles and have earned numerous literary awards including a Sibert Honor Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, the Carter G. Woodson Award (on two occasions), and the SCBWI Golden Kite Award. In 2015, she was named the year’s Notable Wisconsin Children’s Author by the Wisconsin Library Association. 


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