The Book of Presidents

Title: The Book of Presidents
Author: Orville V. Webster
Pages: 128
Reading Level: 9 – 14
Star Rating: ★★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!

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I’ve recently begun to look upon listing all the names of the Presidents as a sort of hobby – an entertainment, a tour de force. However, I was unable to list them in chronological order – until I read The Book of Presidents and memorized their order in one sitting. #yesimproud

Anyway, that was just a side effect. The book itself follows a definite pattern – the name of the president was presented, then the years of his service as President. Next came his nickname (or motto, whichever was more popular), then the dates of his birth and death. Thence followed a two-to-five page biography of the president. His life in a nutshell, so to speak.

Of course, having been published in 1991, The Book of Presidents fell rather short of the description “up-to-date”. The book ends with President “George Bush” (no H. or W. in sight! Shocking.) However, its reports on the other Presidents were not falsified by this lack of foresight. :)

Here are a few interesting facts

  • Abigail Adams is the only woman in U.S. history to be the wife of one President and the mother of another.
  • When he died in 1836, James Madison was the last surviving signer of the Constitution.
  • Of the five Presidents who participated in the American War for Independence, three of them – Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe – died on a Fourth of July.
  • Andrew Jackson participated in approximately 100 duels during his lifetime.
  • Martin Van Buren was the first President born after the United States became an independent nation.
  • William Henry Harrison is known for having given the longest inaugural address in U.S. history – it consisted of 8,578 words and lasted for one hour and forty-five minutes – and for having the shortest Presidential term!
  • John Tyler’s second wife was thirty years younger than himself.
  • One of Zachary Taylor’s daughters married Jefferson Davis!
  • Ulysses S. Grant finished his autobiography just four days before his death.
  • Garfield was able to write with both of his hands simultaneously – in different languages!
  • Teddy Roosevelt was the first President to leave U.S. soil while in office. He was also the first President to ride in an automobile, fly in an airplane, and submerge in a submarine.
  • Franklin Roosevelt was related to eleven former U.S. Presidents.
  • Gerald Ford was the first man to become President without having run for the office of either President or Vice-President.

Lincoln haters should be informed that, although practically nothing is said about the War Between the States, Lincoln is referred to as “one of the greatest men in all American history.” [pg. 51]

Conclusion. An excellent resource.

A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt

Title: A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt
Author: C. Coco De Young
Pages: 103
Recommended Ages: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!

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My first question was – which Mrs. Roosevelt?

The Story.

Eleven year old Margo Bandini has become accustomed to the tightening times of the Great Depression; of no money for candy and of seeing ‘Sheriff Sale’ signs in the front yards of her friends’ houses. She loves to sit and watch the passing trains with her best friend, Rosa, and to exchange bits of news with Mr. Frappa at the grocery market. Even though her little brother, Charlie, gets into all sorts of scrapes, life still goes on happily.

One day at school, Miss Dobson, the lovely teacher, suggests that each class member choose an important person they admire and write a letter to them expressing their thoughts. Margo is excited. But who should she write to?

When Margo learns that a Sheriff’s Sale sign will soon be going up in their yard because her father can’t make payments quickly enough to satisfy the bank, she knows exactly who she will write to – Everywhere Eleanor! President Roosevelt’s eyes and ears; the woman who wants to help the people. But only two weeks remain before their house will be sold. Will Mrs. Roosevelt receive the letter in time? And if she does will she be able to save Margo’s home?

Cautions.

Margo’s neighbor, Mrs. DiLuso is superstitious. She thinks that shooting stars bring bad luck and that il diavolo (the devil) caused The Great Depression. Mama tells Mrs. DiLuso that “il diavolo didn’t arrive on the tail of a shooting star, but in the hearts of those who allowed it.” [pg. 81]

Margo’s friend Rosa declares that “little brothers can be a nuisance.” [pg. 10] Later, after Charlie gets lost, Margo agrees.

When she is at Rosa’s house, Margo can hear Margo’s parents fighting in the background. Strangely enough, the arguments are mostly because the father cannot fully support his family with his income but he refuses to let his wife work because he believes that it is his duty to provide for his family.

On one occasion, after the tension has oppressed Margo for several weeks, she becomes angry. Here is the account,

Enough was enough! I ignored Rosa when she called to me from her front porch. I ignored Mama and Papa when they looked up from the dining room table to say hello. I ignored the fact that Papa was home early and that the table was covered with account books and papers. I didn’t even flinch when I noticed that Mama’s eyes were red again.

I paid no heed to Papa’s “Margo!” as I stomped up the stairs to my room and slammed my door shut as hard as I could. I didn’t pay any attention to my growling stomach when Mama called me to dinner. I simply told her I wasn’t hungry and stayed in my room.

It was bedtime when Charlie knocked on my door and whispered, “Margo, I’m really sorry. Can I come in?” I didn’t answer him; instead I threw my pillow as hard as I could. It landed with a loud thud against the door, then fell to the floor.

I thought I’d feel better. I didn’t. I was hungry. I was tired – tired of being mad at everyone. But there was something far worse than the anger pounding away inside my head. It was the feeling in my heart. I was lonely, very lonely. [pg. 72]

After exhausting her anger in this way, Margo feels much more cheerful the next day.

My only other concern is philosophical rather than with something that is defiling. The problem of the story is that a young girl’s family is about to lose their home. The great wish of the protagonist is to have her home saved. The conclusion *PARDON THE SPOILERS* is that the house is saved – by Eleanor Roosevelt’s intercession and provision for the family with one of FDR’s New Deal loans. Her intervention in the private world of business and loans is Margo’s salvation.

‘Gee’ is used once.

Conclusion. A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt provides a glimpse into the worries, expectations, interests, and hope of the generation of the 1930s. Through Margo we learn of the insecurities and solutions of this momentous time period. Purchase a copy here.