"History is a vast early warning system," quipped Norman Cousins. Election Day in the United States is almost here, the perfect time to dive into American history with children.
Miss Paul and the President by Dean Robbins, illus. by Nancy Zhang (Knopf, $17.99, hardcover, 9781101937204, 40p., ages 4-8, September 6, 2016)
"Alice Paul hurried up and down Pennsylvania Avenue in a purple hat. She wanted to make everything perfect for her parade. A parade no one in Washington, D.C., would ever forget!" The year was 1914, and 8,000 women assembled at Woodrow Wilson's White House to fight for women's right to vote. The unstoppable Alice Paul was behind it all. This lively, well-paced, dynamically illustrated picture-book biography tells of Paul's parade, her meeting with President Wilson (who did not get the apology he expected for the disruption), her founding of the National Woman's Party, and her clever brand of mischief-making that landed her in jail but helped get the job done in time for the 1920 election.
Around America to Win the Vote by Mara Rockliff, illus. by Hadley Hooper (Candlewick, $16.99, hardcover, 9780763678937, 40p., ages 5-8, August 2, 2016)
On April 6, 1916, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke set out from New York City in a small yellow car with a small black kitten to drive 10,000 miles across America, all to make speeches about women's suffrage. The road trip--wonderfully captured in Hooper's playful retro style--had the usual mishaps (blizzards and bullet-dodging), but its highlights included an "all-yellow lunch" in South Carolina (yellow was the color of the suffragette movement) and a circus parade in Georgia. The daring duo closed their cross-country loop in New York City on September 30, 1916, returning to a big welcome and a big yellow cake.
My Washington, DC by Kathy Jakobsen (Little, Brown, $18.99, hardcover, 9780316126120, 40p., ages 6-9, September 6, 2016)
A must-have for any child bound for the United States capital, My Washington, DC is fireworks-worthy. The enthusiastic narrator, a girl named Becky, shares fun facts and brief anecdotes about the city's top attractions, all illustrated with Jakobsen's fascinating, meticulously detailed paintings "done in oil on canvas, with small amounts of ink and acrylic gold for the gold-leaf highlights." Inviting maps on the inside covers lead into Union Station (count the eagles and stars!), Capitol Hill, the Library of Congress, the National Archives (the jacket is a poster of the Bill of Rights), the National Museum of Natural History, the White House (including a menagerie of presidential pets and a mesmerizing cross-section showing room interiors) and beyond.
Commander in Cheese: The Big Move (A Stepping Stone Book) by Lindsey Leavitt, illus. by A.G. Ford (Random House, $4.99, paperback, 9781101931127, 112p., ages 6-9, May 31, 2016)
Two mouse siblings, Ava and Dean Squeakerton, live in the White House, a historic landmark with "two hundred years of mouse memories, stories, and hiding. Lots of hiding." In this early reader series debut, it's not only inauguration day, it's moving day for President Caroline Abbey, her husband and children. The Big Move harkens back to Mary Norton's The Borrowers when Ava sips her juice from a ChapStick cap, and she and Dean embark on a dangerous quest to find a Lego ("much cooler than Lyndon Johnson's toenail clippers") for their Treasure Rooms. Leavitt seamlessly weaves presidential history into her engaging narrative, while Ford's winning illustrations make the story scamper and squeak to life. Next up in the series: Oval Office Escape.
50 Things You Should Know About American Presidents by Tracey Kelly (QEB Publishing, $15.95, flexibound, 9781609929367, 80p., ages 10-13, February 23, 2016)
This flashy, splashy, yet straightforwardly written reference walks readers through presidential history, from George Washington to Barack Obama, devoting a colorful, energetically designed double-page spread to each. Every entry features a brief biography, career highlights, historical context and fast facts, along with plentiful photographs, maps and other illustrations. Presidents are grouped into historical categories: "A New Nation," "Westward Expansion and the Civil War, "Expansion and Power," "The World at War," "The Space Race" and "International Diplomacy," with at-a-glance descriptions of each era. An eye-catching, accessible jumping-off point to further studies of U.S. history.
American Presidents Activity Book by Joe Rhatigan, illus. by Anthony Owsley (MoonDance Press, $7.95, paperback, 9781633221116, 144p., ages 8-12, September 1, 2016)
A pencil, a smattering of knowledge of American history and some basic curiosity are all children will need to enjoy this challenging activity book based on the 44 U.S. presidents that, happily, leaves room for President #45. "Do you know who served as president for just over twelve years? Or how about the president who served thirty-two days? How about the president who died after eating a Fourth of July treat?" American Presidents answers these questions and poses many more in crossword puzzles, poetry "Fill in the Blanks," anagrams, "Two Truths and a Lie" and some creative drawing challenges, too. Answers in the back!
Your Presidential Fantasy Dream Team by Daniel O'Brien, illus. by Winston Rowntree (Crown, $13.99, paperback, 9780553537475, 272p., ages 10-up, June 28, 2016)
"Whether you're forming an action team to defend the planet or just putting together a group of presidents to pull off some kind of grand scheme, every good team needs Brain, Brawn, a Loose Cannon, a Moral Compass, and a Roosevelt," writes O'Brien in his introduction to this unabashedly opinionated reference book with suitably over-the-top black-and-white illustrations. On Andrew Jackson: "He wasn't always a lunatic, of course, he aged into it, like a fine wine, fermented with poison and stirred with an ax." On Nixon: "Fun Fact: Nixon is literally the only president I don't want to hang out with." O'Brien includes only late presidents, because living ones are still busy fulfilling their potential, and hopes he is offering "a better, cooler, and COMPLETELY INSANE version of history" to America's youth. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness