News & Politics

Bedtime With Barack, John, and Hillary

Local bookstores are selling more political-themed children’s books, some written by the famous, some written about the famous. Here’s a rundown.

Book Main Character Tear-Jerking Moment Over-the-Top Moment Moral of the Story Reality Check
Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope by Nikki Grimes Hope personified At the end, the mother blinks back tears as the little boy who begins the book by asking her about Obama ends it by saying, “Mama, I’ve been thinking. When I grow up, I want to be president.” Hope follows Obama around the world, whispering encouragement and advice into his ear. The voices from beyond culminate when Obama visits Kenya and his father speaks to him from beyond the grave. Obama has a varied background that encompasses multiple races, ethnicities, and regions. His identity and inspiring story make him a candidate who might act as a bridge for a diverse America. Eric Jackson, publisher of the children’s tale Help! Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed!, says, “The only thing missing is him coming out of the Jordan River.”
My Dad, John McCain by Meghan McCain War hero turned straight-talking maverick The section on McCain’s time as a POW will move both parents and children: “My dad was hurt, sick, and scared. But he knew there were some things more important than himself—like his faith in God, his country, and the men he served with.” The illustrations depicting McCain’s plane crashes feature a sky filled with burning fires and smoke and a plane plummeting to the ground. Not the best image to warm kids up for that Christmas plane trip to Grandma’s. Bravery and patriotism can get you anywhere—maybe even to the Oval Office. Target audience of eight-year-olds can’t vote, and parents likely to buy this book probably already support McCain.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight by Kathleen Krull The little Hillary that could After being ineligible for NASA, losing the high-school election, and failing to win the presidential nomination, resilient and try-again Clinton’s dreams still soar. The book’s girl-power theme assumes that Clinton’s political defeats were due to sexism. Little girls should always dream big and never let anyone hold them back. It’s hard being a woman in a high-powered field, but with persistence and hard work, dreams can come true (or not). Dreams Taking Flight was released the same day as the Obama book but has sold fewer than 1,000 copies, while the Obama book has sold very well.
We the People: The Story of Our Constitution by Lynne Cheney The Founders After the culmination of months of debate and despair in a stiflingly hot room, just at the moment George Washington signs the document, the sun shines upon his chair. Absent from the debate over making slaves count as three-fifths of a person is discussion of how many of the Founding Fathers were slave owners. When property-owning white men band together to form a democratic government based on liberty and justice for all, beautiful things can happen. It reads like a schoolbook. Founding Fathers substitute for the happy animals of most picture books.

This article first appeared in the November 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.  

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