Great Leaders and the Place They Called Home

Feeling a bit overwhelmed/angry/confused with the current race to the White House? Imagine what your kids think of the whole thing. This Presidents Day, remind them (and yourself) that great men have held that office and accomplished wonderful things for the country. These two books provide much-needed salve. (Also, check out the link at the bottom–it’s a video of Sabuda explaining his process.)

Nice Work, Franklin! by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain, illustrated by Larry Day; Dial Books, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 5-9.

Jurmain and Day’s latest presidential collaboration (George Did It! and Worst of Friends) explores the life and career of Franklin Roosevelt. Though permanently disabled by polio, Roosevelt was determined not to be defined by this handicap. This resilience exemplified how Roosevelt faced his disability and the Great Depression. Jurmain’s story weaves facts with amusing anecdotes to paint a full picture of the man while also keeping kids engaged. In one such account, the president’s children cheer him on while he conditions his leg muscles, rallying  for various body parts–thigh, calf, and the favorite, the gluteus maximus. Day’s pencil, watercolor, and gouache illustrations perfectly capture Roosevelt’s complexities and the crises he faced with spirit and levity. The story isn’t all gloss and cheer–Jurmain highlights that, although most Americans loved FDR (they did elect him to office four times, after all), plenty of folks disagreed with his policies, then and now. Nice Work, Franklin! hits the non-fiction trifecta with the power to enlighten, entertain and educate.

The White House: A Pop-Up of Our Nation’s Home, by Robert Sabuda; Orchard Books, $29.99, 6 spreads 9 popups, ages 6 and up.

Every president since John Adams has called the house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home, and 1.5 million people visit the White House annually. Now, master paper engineer Robert Sabuda brings the tour between hardcovers, showcasing six distinct parts of the property, including the Lincoln Bedroom, the Rose Garden, and the South Lawn. Like any other Sabuda popup, details are everywhere–from tiny lamps in the massive chandelier to a Secret Service agent hiding behind an Oval Office curtain. An adaptation of “Inauguration Day” by Richard Watson Gilder (1844-1909) runs through the book and provides appropriate lyricism.

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