With Election Day fast approaching (Nov. 6), now is the perfect time to introduce children to the concepts of a president and elections. Whether you prefer books about fictional presidential races or true accounts of real-life presidents, all of the following provide great segues to discussing current events.
Max for President
By Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Publisher: Dragonfly Books; Reprint edition (August 12, 2008)
Ages: 3 and up
Max and Kelly both want to be class president. But only one can take the top job. So they each make signs, buttons, speeches and promises to encourage their classmates to vote for them. When the votes are counted, Kelly wins, and she gets to pick the vice president. Of course, she chooses Max. Geared toward younger children, this simple story provides an introduction to the ideas of a campaign, voting and an election.
From the author and illustrator of best-selling picture books Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type and Giggle Giggle Quack, this book continues the series about a group of opportunistic farm animals. Duck is dissatisfied with toiling away on the farm and decides it’s time for a new leader. He holds an election to replace Farmer Brown. The candidates? Farm animals, of course. Duck wins but finds that running a farm is nothing to quack about. So he decides to run for governor. He wins that race as well and then sets his sights on the highest office in the land: the Oval Office. Running the country is no fun, either, and Duck eventually retires to do as other past presidents have—write his memoir—and he uses the typewriter from Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type. This book is a humorous way to open discussion of the electoral process but is perhaps suited for readers who already have a basic understanding of it.
Amelia Bedelia’s First Vote
By Herman Parish (author) and Lynne Avril (illustrator)
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (April 3, 2012)
Ages: 4 and up
Amelia Bedelia’s class is learning about elections. The students hold an election to vote for a new school rule. The classmates draft eight rules and vote them down one by one until only two remain: homework-free Wednesdays and ice cream sandwiches for lunch. Miss Edwards, the teacher, proposes a runoff. Eventually, an absentee ballot arrives (from a sick classmate), and homework-free Wednesdays wins. Author Herman Parish does a wonderful job of explaining a complicated subject. It’s easy to see why this series has been successful since 1963. Amelia Bedelia’s amusing way of taking things literally will make kids laugh out loud.
Who is running for president of Barkadelphia School? Tiffany the popular poodle and Charles the jock bulldog. Oh, and Otto the mutt. Tiffany and Charles duke it out campaigning while Otto focuses on talking with students about what they would like for the school. In the end, Otto’s more-friendly campaign style wins out, and the school wins as well. This picture book by the author of the popular Max and Ruby series highlights election foibles including the excesses of paid endorsements, mudslinging and candidates disconnected from the electorate.
By Lane Smith
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH (July 29, 2008)
Ages: 4 and up
A little girl pretending to be Madam President introduces readers to a day in the life of a president. Her day includes making an executive order (waffles for breakfast), posing for photo ops (photobombing a Boy Scout picture), kissing babies, vetoing (tuna casserole lunch and many, many more), keeping the peace and leading by example (cleaning her room). At the end of the day, an exhausted president defers an ambassador (cat) to the vice president (her doll). This cute depiction of a girl’s fantasy life serves as a wonderful introduction to presidential responsibilities.
Grace for President
By Kelly S. DiPucchio (author) and LeUyen Pham (illustrator)
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH; Revised edition (March 6, 2012)
Ages: 5 and up
When Mrs. Barrington shows her class a poster with all the presidents on it, Grace asks, “Where are the girls?” When Grace decides she wants to be president, Mrs. Barrington arranges for a school election. She even goes as far as having each child represent a state with electoral votes. The problem? Grace’s opponent, a popular BOY named Thomas. Both candidates campaign hard until Thomas realizes that the boys hold a majority of the electoral votes. Thinking the election is his, he slacks off on his campaign. When Election Day arrives, Grace wins by one electoral vote; the boy casting it thought she was the best person for the job. Grace for President explains the electoral system in a way that is easy to understand and shows readers that hard work and integrity pay off.
What Presidents Are Made Of
By Hanoch Piven
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (January 24, 2012)
Ages: 6 and up
In this inventive book, readers get to know 17 U.S. presidents as people through anecdotes about specific situations, their interests and, sometimes, their faults. Each entry includes an anecdote that begins with the phrase “Presidents are made of …” and an interesting collage of objects related to the anecdote that depicts the president. For example, Jimmy Carter’s nose is made of peanuts (he was a peanut farmer). To represent his work with Habitat for Humanity International, his mouth is a ladder, and he carries a saw and measuring tape. Young children will enjoy both the fun stories and images.
So You Want to be President?
By Judith St. George (author) and David Small (illustrator)
Publisher: Philomel; Revised and Updated edition (August 19, 2004)
Ages: 6 and up
For older picture book readers, So You Want To Be President? is full of anecdotes and trivia about being president. The book opens with a brief description of the benefits of being president: the White House’s amenities, the lack of chores and the choice to not eat vegetables. The book also talks about the odds of being elected depending on a person’s name or what type of house a person was born in. Then, it expounds on presidential ages, presidential personalities, presidential appearances, presidential families, presidential talents (or lack thereof) and the like. No detail is spared in this interesting and entertaining account of our country’s past (and present) leaders. Award-winning illustrator David Small’s political cartoon-style caricatures are light-hearted and humorous—a perfect match for the content.
Margaret Greanias (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an aspiring children’s picture book author. She has two young children and lives in Los Altos.