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So You Want To Be President?
    by John Cech


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That's Stockard Channing narrating the 2001 Weston Woods film version of the award-winning picture book, So You Want to Be President?, by Judith St. George. This compilation of historical facts, anecdotes, and quippy commentary is a good starting point for a younger child to begin learning about the most powerful office in the country, if not the world -- from the heights and pets of the presidents to their epicurean and haberdashery styles.

A number of intriguing books have also appeared in recent years about family life in the White House, including Carl Anthony's America's First Families, which is loaded with portraits, vintage illustrations, and behind-the- scenes photographs that offer a view of this world that we don't usually see, like the scrap-book montages of candid snapshots of various first family members bowling and dancing, baking cookies and having breakfast.

Another view into this rareified domestic realm is offered by Doug Wead's All the Presidents' Children, Triumph and Tragedy in the Lives of America's First Families. The tragedies, as we learn, began with the Washingtons. One of Washington's step-children, Jacky, evidently tried to swindle his step-father, and Patsy, Washington's step-daughter, died of an epileptic seizure when she was seventeen. Teddy Roosevelt's youngest son, Quentin, a pilot in World War I, was killed in action; and Ted Roosevelt, Jr. served in both world wars, winning the Medal of Honor, and joining the forces that landed in Normandy.

As you might imagine, in an election season, there is a daunting array of books -- of every genre -- about our political system. Here is where the annotated list provided on-line by the Children's Book Council at can be a real help. You'll find everything here, from serious historical studies and biographies to books that bring politics down to earth and into children's lives. Look for Jarrett Krosoczka's Max for President. Max doesn't win the election for class president; Kelly does. But when she's asked to choose a vice president, she names Max, and together they form a coalition government. Now doesn't that suggest an interesting political possibility to young minds who are just beginning to learn about the process.

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Copyright 2004 John Cech

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Wednesday, 22-Sep-2004 10:22:56 EDT

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."