Get ready to go back to school with great nonfiction newly-released books

With the hotly contested and very controversial presidential elections around the corner, two books are sure to spark some interest in the election and about past presidents. A book that will fascinate children with unusual facts about past presidents is “Your Presidential Fantasy Dream Team” by Daniel O’Brien and illustrated by Winston Rowntree. According to the publisher, “Combining presidential history with fantasy football tactics, this laugh-out-loud book is a fresh, fun take on nonfiction — history made fun for reluctant readers.”

While this reviewer knows nothing about fantasy football, the book is both insightful and humorous. At the end of each chapter about a president, there is a summary. For example, “You’re building an elite team — there’s no room for the guy who might FLIP OUT at any time.” (Read the book to find out which president that refers to.) About Nixon, “Nixon extended the war in Vietnam by five years just so he could cheat Humphrey out of the White House and become president.” This would be a great read-aloud as the days tick by before the election. It’s good to remind children that presidents are just people like them.

 A magnificent book about past presidents is written by none other than Ken Burns. If you wonder (as did I) why the title is “Grover Cleveland, Again!” read the note from Ken Burns at the beginning  which explains why. This book presents information about each president (through President Obama) in a very even-handed, serious manner. Each section has an inset that includes the official portrait of the president as well as illustrations by Gerald Kelley which appear to be watercolor but are actually (according to the book) created from pencil and digital color. Information is included about the presidents’ families, party, nickname, pets and occupations.  The rest of that page and the next page are filled with stories about the president and interesting facts. At the end is a list of selected presidential birthplaces, libraries, museums, and historic sites. A Glossary is also included with definitions of such words as bribe, capitalism, congress, dictator, and Jim Crow laws.

This review is based on the final copy of the books provided by the publisher, Random House Children’s Books (Crown Books for Young Readers and Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers) for review purposes.

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