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!


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.

Who Was Ronald Reagan?

Title: Who Was Ronald Reagan?
Author: Joyce Milton
Illustrator: Elizabeth Wolf
Pages: 106
Recommended Ages: 8-12
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!


Who was Ronald Reagan? What did he believe? What did he stand for? What did he do with his life? All of these questions and more are answered in Who Was Ronald Reagan?


Many fun facts are given from Reagan’s life. For example, did you know …

…that during the six years that he served as a bodyguard at Rock River, Ronald Reagan rescued seventy seven people?

… that although Reagan’s first name was always Ronald, he was called ‘Dutch’ Reagan until he became an actor at the age of twenty-six?

… that Reagan acted in over sixty movies and thirteen TV shows?

… that Reagan turned seventy less than a month after he was elected, making him the oldest person to become President?

One thing that I really liked in Who Was Ronald Reagan? were the little boxed notes that it featured on different historical events – Prohibition, the Great Depression, The Cold War, the Berlin Wall, etc. These helped give context to the events in Reagan’s life.

Reagan was initially a big fan of FDR and his plans to help America, he later decided, “that the government had gotten too big. The government in Washington, D.C., kept starting new programs. But, Reagan complained, few of the were ended even after they had served their purpose. Reagan came to believe that, in the long run, government created as many problems as it solved.” [pg. 56-57] Woohoo!


Reagan’s Grenada invasion is discussed briefly and his opinion (that “what happened in the Middle East was ‘everybody’s business’“) is given.

Reagan’s first marriage and subsequent divorce are mentioned.

It is reported that on their first date Nancy and Reagan stayed out until three in the morning.

On illustration shows a woman in a bathing suit.

Conclusion. An excellent introduction for young students.

Operation Rawhide

Title: Operation Rawhide
Author: Paul Thomsen
Pages: 70
Reading Level: 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!


Few Presidents were as well loved as Ronald Reagan, but there were some who hated him….. and were willing to express that hatred in steel.

The Story.

President Ronald Reagan – nicknamed Rawhide – is only sixty-nine days into his presidency, but already he’s become accustomed to the routine of meetings and press conferences. March 30, 1981 is just such another day; President Reagan has completed a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel and he is preparing to return to the White House when a man steps forward. This man fires six bullets at the President, missing him with each shot. But the sixth, ricocheting off of the limousine door, pierces his chest, grazes a rib and pauses an inch from his heart. With the President coughing up blood, Secret Service Agents direct his course to the George Washington University Hospital. If medical help is not found soon, the President will die.

Dr. Aaron has just come off of a grueling heart surgery. He needs a rest. But there is no time to rest with the President’s life at stake. With a prayer to God for help, Dr. Aaron makes ready for surgery. If Reagan lives he will be the first President to ever survive an assassination attempt. But will he live?


As part of the Creation Adventure Series, Operation Rawhide incorporates short pieces describing God’s creation and explaining why it could not have come about by evolutionary processes. For example,

The heart is a perfectly organized mechanism that begins its work shortly after conception in the mother’s womb. Beating, beating, three thousand times an hour, eighty thousand times a day whether at work or asleep – never resting, never stopping, millions and billions of times over a lifetime. That masterful combination of muscles and electrical impulses draws in oxygenated blood from the lungs and superboosts it to the other body organs – to the millions of receptacles on the back of the eyes that help give us sight, to the millions of nerve endings on our fingers giving us touch, to the millions of electrical connectors in the brain giving us the ability for thought, wisdom, and feelings. Feelings that are inherent to all mankind – the sensation of beauty that one feels while viewing a golden sunset across a fall-colored, hushed lake; feelings of power watching a surging, crashing ocean; feelings of love when a mother holds her newborn baby. None of these sensations – beauty, power, or love – could have just happened by time and chance. This incredibly complicated, perfectly organized, functioning, living heart could not have come about or developed by mutation over billions of years of mistakes through evolution. The most evident, perfect example of a Sovereign Creator God is life itself, for only a Supreme Being has the capability of producing it – only God could have put the breath of life into this President’s heart.” [pgs. 51-52] 

On this account, Operation Rawhide was interesting as well as apologetically informing.

Mr. Thomsen correctly identifies America as a Republic several times. He says that

“The very foundation that glued the republic together was cracking and beginning to crumble  from within. Massive racial violence was erupting. Violent crime was on the rise, and running amuck was an exploding drug addiction that was eating at the very core of the nation – its youth. Torn and twisted, the backbone of the nation – its moral fiber – stood on the brink of catastrophic collapse.

This was a battle of foundational values – the collective conscience of the people. It was spiritual warfare.” [pgs. 4-5]


Mr. Thomsen states in one place that he and his family had accepted Christ as their personal Saviour and made him Lord over their lives. In another place Mr. Thomsen refers to a man as ‘demon-controlled’.

Mr. Thomsen describes the events that led to John Hinckley’s Jr.’s assassination attempt on Reagan. He says that

“Hinckley also had a mad fascination for a young movie star he had never met. She had played the part of a teenage prostitute in a film about a demented young man who planned to kill a high political figure and then stalked his victim relentlessly. Time after time he sat through the film, burying into his drug-filled, mesmerized mind the satanic plot – stalk and kill, stalk and kill. As his plan to get the President took form in his mind, he wrote the starlet a letter. In it he said, “I would abandon this idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you. . . . I will admit to you that the reason I’m going ahead with this attempt now is because I just cannot wait any longer to impress you.”

This demon-controlled, sick man went on to close the letter, “I’m asking you to please look into your heart and at least give me the chance with this historical deed to gain your respect and love.” [pgs. 8-9]

Mr. Thomsen says that Hinckley spent the night before his attempt at

“the pornographic stores, filling his mind with corrupting, lewd pictures. His senses were dulled by drugs, pornography, hard rock music, and Nazi doctrine—everything God opposed.” [pgs. 10-11]

These passages aren’t immdediately defiling, but they are sure to raise a lot of questions in the minds of children regarding words and ideas.

There is a reference to crematoriums.

This story includes several accounts of heart surgeries. Because their goal is to heal, these do not have the nasty feeling that brutality induces, but they are enough to make a person squeamish. The following passage describes the beginning of a heart surgery.

“Taking a scalpel, he made the incision from the top of the breastbone to the bottom, working the bottom area a bit more open. Having done that, he slipped the foot of his saber saw under the sternum and squeezed the activator button, sending the blade into an up-and-down blur. Pushing the instrument forward, he proceeded to saw the sternum in two, a slight whiff of smoke rising as the blade easily buzzed through the bone structure. Removing the saw, he inserted the chest spreader, screwing it open. With each twist, the chest cavity yawned wider, exposing the diseased heart in its protective sac, the pericardium. Carefully he cut the sac open – the heart with its four plugged arteries now in full view….

Before the heart could be operated on, it had to be shut down; the heart-lung machine would take over the function of the heart and the lungs by both pumping the blood and recharging the oxygen. To connect the tubes leading to the heart-lung machine, Dr. Aaron first made an incision in the aorta, the big main artery at the top of the heart where blood comes out and flows to the whole body. Into the small incision, he sutured the small tube leading back to the heart-lung machine. Once completed, he made a second incision in the right atrium, the chamber of the heart that pumps the blood to the big aorta. Into the second incision he sutured the other tube, about the size of a thumb. As the tubes cut off the blood supply to the heart and bypassed it to the heart-lung machine, the patient’s heart, having no blood to pump, naturally stopped pumping; however, it continued to beat.

“Sorta looks like a flopping, deflated volleyball,” said the anesthesiologist as he adjusted the anesthetic gas that kept the patient unconscious. [pgs. 28-30]

Something that aspiring doctors and scientists may enjoy, but as for the rest of us….

Conclusion. I knew next to nothing about Ronald Reagan’s assassination attempt prior to reading this story, but now I feel as though I understand the events that occurred and why they occurred. If you believe that your child can handle the above cautions, I recommend that you purchase your copy here.

Goodwill Bundle!

Last week on the way home from a visit with my sister in San Antonio, Mom and I stopped off at a previously unvisited Goodwill. Here are the results.

Essays and Sketches of Mark Twain – $ 2.09 This thick volume includes many of Mark Twain’s humorous fictional and non-fictional shorter pieces.

Who Was Ronald Reagan? – $ .34 One of the main focuses of my in-progress childrens’ library is quality biographies. I look forward to reading this account of former actor and President, Reagan.

Complete Sonnets – $ .69 I’ve never read William Shakespeare’s sonnets (I’ve read a few of them – you know, ‘Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds’ sorta thing), and I was happy to find this non-illustrated version. :)

Talking About Detective Fiction – $ .79 For various reasons P. D. James is not amongst my chosen detective writers, but she is a good writer and I look forward to reading her evaluations of other authors’ detective pieces.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs – $ 1.99 Yay! Delighted to have found this Christian classic in the beautiful Hendrickson Classics edition.

McGuffey’s First Reader – $ .49
McGuffey’s Second Reader – $ .49
McGuffey’s Third Reader – $ .49
McGuffey’s Fourth Reader – $ .49
McGuffey’s Fifth Reader – $ .49
McGuffey’s Sixth Reader – $ .49
Oh, my. Yes. Word, yes! You might say I’m more than partially ecstatic at this particular find. The sad part is that I am only responsible for finding one of the six books – my Mom sniffed out the other five with her infallible book nose. : ) I really appreciate the sober, instructive stories included in McGuffey’s readers.

Total Spent = $ 8.84

 Total Value = $ 76.20

 Next Literary Acquisition = ?????


Stories In His Own Hand

Title: Stories In His Own Hand
Author: Ronald Reagan
Pages: 123
Reading Level: 13 & up
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!


I had seen this book at the North Channel library sale before, but had passed it up thinking that it didn’t look terribly interesting. But at my last trip to the North Channel sale, when I came across it, I realized just what it was. It was a set of stories and sketches written by a past President of my country. That was worth the purchase right there (not taking into account that Reagan was an actor from the thirties and forties…..)

The Story.

Stories In His Own Hand consisted of different stories and sketches which were written by Reagan, mostly to be read over the radio. They are so short and of such a varied nature that it would be impossible to offer you a summary of each or even to provide you with a general idea of their style.

That said, there were a few entries that stood out to me. One was the story of ten Vietnam veterans who returned to Vietnam to help villagers recover from the devastation done there by living in community with them and offering friendship. Another sketch outlined the history of a nation (the name was not initially given). The description was almost identical to America, but the nation being described (we learned at the end) was Rome. Another story was of a young girl dying from leukemia and how a community voluntarily raised the funds for her surgery.

In one short sketch, Reagan defends Calvin Coolidge, the ‘do-nothing’ President. Here is what Reagan says in Coolidge’s defense.

“So what if he was a ‘do nothing’ president. Do you suppose doing nothing had something to do with reducing the budget, reducing the debt and cutting taxes four times?” [pg. 68]

I think my favorite pieces, though, were the ones Reagan wrote of his own life. Having seen a few of his movies, I enjoyed hearing about his times as a nervous young actor and the occasion when he was tricked into attending the premier of his first real movie.


My first thought is more a note than a caution; Ronald Reagan’s writings breathe of what I would call a ‘good-old-boy’ view of the American people. He refers to them as a whole as upright, honest, intelligent, and highly moral. Now, I recognize that America has been tremendously blessed of God, that her citizens have in the past operated on a Christian foundation, and that in many senses we are the freest country in the world. But I’m not a triumphalist and I do not consider America to be a godly or righteous nation at this time. The reality is that a great number of our people are morally rotting from the inside out. Like I said, not really a caution so much as a note.

There is one mild evolutionary reference.

‘Hell’, is used once and ‘h—l’ four times.

Conclusion. Stories In His Own Hand will be an engaging read for those interested in politics or American history in the last century. I found that it gave me a fuller understanding of the man that Ronald Reagan was and what his hopes were for our country. Purchase a copy here.

Attempted Library Sale……

I have a long history with North Channel Library book sales; the very first time we attended one, I managed to get the starting time wrong and we had to burn three hours before the sale started. Last month I got the week wrong. Yeah. The week.  We showed up a week early and no sale was happening….. *embarrassing*

So, yesterday was another North Channel Library Sale. My mom and sister were skeptical, but after I showed them the schedule on the library website, they agreed to go with me. And, well, you can guess what happened. The library sale had been canceled but they forgot to change the date on the website. And I had dragged my family forty-five minutes there and now how to apologize forty-five minutes back. *sigh* The life we bibliophiles lead.

However, tragic though the situation may have been, I did manage to find six books on the North Channel Library bookshelf (a regularly stocked shelf from whence books may be bought at any time). Here are the newest editions additions.

A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt – $ .25 A young girl living during the aftermath of the Great Depression is assigned the task of writing a letter to Mrs. Roosevelt. I’ve only ever read one children’s story set during this time period, so I will enjoy reading this.

Narrative Poems – $ .25 I have the Complete Works of William Shakespeare in one huge, beautiful maroon-colored hardcover. It’s gorgeous. But it’s a bit unwieldy to read from. So, when I saw his narrative poems in a sophisticated soft cover for twenty-five cents, I decided that purchasing it would be a wise thing to do.

Morning Girl – $ .25 Morning Girl is a story about one of the young natives who lived on a Bahamian island in 1492 – the year when Columbus sailed amongst the Americas. I don’t think Morning Girl is a real historical figure, but the historical setting will be unusual.

Far From Home – $ .50 I can still remember watching Far From Home over and over as a child. Some parts were funny, and some were *scary*. (Read – when a wolf growled outside of Angus’ makeshift tent). It will be interesting to read the novelized version of the story and observe any discrepancies.

Stories in His Own Hand – $ .50 These are different stories, essays and brief sketches written by Ronald Reagan in the years prior to his presidential service. It will be interesting to read these ‘non-political’ writings from the man we have known almost exclusively as either President or movie star.

#3 Encyclopedia Brown Finds the Clues – $ .25 One of my funnest friends has informed me that I *have* to read Encyclopedia Brown. I enjoy reading short detective stories that challenge you to exercise your sleuthing abilities, so this should be fun.

Total Spent = $ 2.00

Total Value = $ 42.69

Next Library Sale = August 4, 2012