Woodrow for President by Peter and Cheryl Barnes
Posted August 30, 2012on:
A couple of weeks ago, a beautiful hardcover picture book called Woodrow for President arrived at my doorstep. I received this book by Peter and Cheryl Barnes as part of the TLC Tour Books. (You can find a full list of tour sites near the top of the right hand column.) Immediately, I proudly showed off the cute and lavish picture book to my husband. Then I set down to read it.
One of the quirks I’ve picked up as an adult is I prefer to first look in the children’s section of the library when I want to know more about topic. Children’s books give me the basics, and then some, without bogging me down with endless information. I especially appreciate that trait when it comes to topics that I’d otherwise never read about such as the electoral process. Through Woodrow for President, even though it is about a mouse and the United Mice for America, I gained an appreciation for exactly how many steps a citizen might undertake before running for president: sit on the town council, become mayor, get voted state governor, campaign in all fifty states, hold a primary election, compete in debates, attend a national convention, await nomination, work the campaign trail again, and finally hope to receive presidential election. Wow!
That said, I was still somewhat surprised that I liked Woodrow for President. As a teacher, I resent when information is disguised as a story. It’s difficult enough to turn my students onto the joy of reading without force-feeding them facts. Make no mistake, the style in Woodrow for President is an informational one but Woodrow is such an easily likeable character, because of his valuing hard work, knowing right from wrong, and marrying the hometown girl. Okay, that makes him sound stiff, but he’s nice and cute—and I liked him. And while I normally don’t like rhyming picture books, the rhymes rarely sound forced and so mostly make for an entertaining read.
Then we have the illustrations. As an adult who reads to a young audience, I hate when every last page is loud with color. Granted, some of the pages in Woodrow for President are a little cluttered, but over all the pictures relate to the story rather than being there just to entertain. They’re also colorful without being overwhelming and painful, as well as detailed without being chaotic. In essence, they’re just darn cute! It’s also piles of fun to look for the mouse Secret Service agent hidden in each drawing. If my middle-aged husband can become absorbed in the search, I know children will too.
All the above is my reaction as an adult. In following the reviews of bloggers who shared Woodrow for President with younger readers, I noticed they reported mixed opinions. From my own experiences with introducing books similar to Woodrow in style and design, I have to wonder if the target audience of kindergarten to grade four would choose Woodrow of their own accord. Younger kids may complain about its somewhat text-heavy pages, while older kids will likely disdain its overly cute illustrations. Yet I could see reading Woodrow for President as part of an elementary social studies class and from there it gaining popularity. You’d be surprised at how many books I’ve first heard about because a teacher introduced in class and then students embraced it.
This review is growing overly long, considering the shortness of most picture books, and so I’ll wrap it up with a few last observations. I don’t often see my students checking out the extra pages in an informational book, which here include information about past presidents, campaigns, and elections, along with a contract to vote that parents and children can sign. Maybe because adults are the ones expected to check out these pages, the pages are labeled as being for parents and teachers. Oddly though, except for the contract, they’re mostly written as for a younger audience. Personally, I think the contract would have been more meaningful if written in kid-friendly language. These criticisms aside, I love extras in a book and so appreciated seeing the abundance of them in Woodrow for President.
If you remember at the start, I mentioned showing Woodrow for President off to my husband because of its cute and lavish package. After reading Woodrow for President, I paraded around with it again. What an awesome book to use to teach children about the electoral process. I’m delighted to have received a copy for being a TLC host! I also look forward to read future offerings by Peter and Cheryl Barnes, one of which is already on its way to me.
My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.
How would you rate this book?