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Grover Cleveland, Again!: A Treasury of American Presidents Hardcover – 12 Jul 2016
|Hardcover, 12 Jul 2016||
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About the Author
Since the Academy Award–nominated Brooklyn Bridge aired in 1981, Ken Burns has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. These include The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, The Civil War, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, and Baseball, among many others.
A father of four, Ken was inspired to write this book by his daughters, who, when they were young, enjoyed reciting the names of the presidents and would gleefully shout out “Grover Cleveland, again!” when they got to his second, nonconsecutive term.
Ken lives with his family in New Hampshire. Find out more about Ken and his films at kenburns.com or @KenBurns.
Gerald Kelley has illustrated several books for children, including My Name Is Bob by James Bowen and Garry Jenkins (a picture book prequel to the New York Times bestseller A Street Cat Named Bob) and M Is for Monster: A Fantastic Creatures Alphabet, by former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. Gerald lives in Colorado. You can see more of his work at geraldkelley.com.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Each president is discussed over two pages (except Grover Cleveland, who gets four pages): one page containing a short summary of the president’s life and times along with some fast facts, and a second page containing an illustration. The illustrations, all by Gerald Kelley, are a highlight of the book and help readers understand the personalities of the presidents to better contextualize their biographies.
Burns does two things in GROVER CLEVELAND, AGAIN! that make it stand out from most children’s history books. First, he uses the presidents’ stories to sprinkle in basic lessons in big-picture political issues. For example, he succinctly explains why gas prices matter to the economy in his one-paragraph explanation of the energy crisis during the Carter administration and how banks work --- both on the macro and micro level --- on James Monroe’s page. Second, Burns highlights inspirational aspects of the presidents’ lives to prove to his young audience that disadvantages can be overcome with hard work and confidence. While most presidential histories for children like to joke about President Taft’s weight and his difficulty getting out of bathtubs, Burns uses the story as a teachable moment. He writes, “It doesn’t matter if you weigh as much as William Howard Taft (332 pounds) or as little as James Madison (100 pounds)... tall or short; fat or skinny; a man or a woman. You can grow up to be president.” He makes similar motivational points when discussing FDR’s physical disability and Woodrow Wilson overcoming dyslexia to become one of the top academics in the world before his presidency.
GROVER CLEVELAND, AGAIN! is an excellent choice to give to a child with a developing interest in history, politics or the presidents. A drawback worth noting is that Burns’ liberal political leanings do find their way into the text, such as in his very complimentary bio of President Obama and a number of criticisms directed at the idea of “small government” ideals throughout the book. However, his bias is far from egregious and does not interfere with him providing historically accurate and complete accounts of the presidents. Overall, GROVER CLEVELAND, AGAIN! is a book young history fans could thumb through for months and still find captivating. As previously mentioned, James Polk is remembered as a man of his word because he fulfilled his campaign promise to only serve one term in the White House, and Ken Burns stayed true to his word by turning GROVER CLEVELAND, AGAIN! from a bedtime story into an enjoyable historical piece that is accessible to any young reader.
Reviewed by Rob Bentlyewski