Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In a Presidential Mood

If you somehow manage to miss the cherry blossom crush of early Spring, Washington DC is a lovely place to visit in the Spring.  Cherry blossom peak or no, the National Mall is arguably at it's best this time of year.  You may not be making your way DC anytime soon, but you and your young audience will enjoy some of the recent books that have been published about presidents and White House history.

Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman is a unique and refreshing nonfiction picture book about President Abraham Lincoln.  Kalman's book is well-organized and written in a strong, clear voice.  Young audiences will be perfectly capable of reading (or hearing), comprehending, and remembering the info in this book.   Kalman's brightly hued abstracts are a fantastic break from somber historical texts.  These illustrations just scream "History lives!" And as an undergrad-historian myself, I really love to see a book for children that breathes life, fun, and a few laughs into historical study.  My preschooler was thrilled to recognize the huge Lincoln Monument, and to learn why it is there.  You'll be inspired to make a trip to read the Gettysburg Address on those marble walls again (or for the first time).

First Peas to the Table: How Thomas Jefferson Inspired a School Garden by Susan Grigsby and illustrated by Nicole Tadgell just came out in February.  Perfect timing.  We are weeks and weeks away from the first peas here in the Mid-Atlantic, but they are in the ground and everyone has their gardening gloves on....and that includes more and more school children working in school and community gardens.  Thomas Jefferson and his neighbors competed annually to see who would be the first to bring sweet green peas to the dinner table.  A few hundred years later school kids use a little research, experimentation, ingenuity, and teamwork in their class contest to bring a bowl of peas to the lunch table.  This story is a great bridge between the past and present.  Grigsby capably weaves a little history with a fine story that a modern grade-schooler will be able to relate to.

Finally check out Robin Gourley's, First Garden: The White House Garden and How it Grew .  I wish that Gourley had included more history about Jefferson's and Roosevelt's gardens, but there is some good stuff here and it's a nice addition to this theme.   Some primary resources would be a great addition, but I can appreciate how difficult these are to get permission for, and his cheerful watercolor illustrations are perfectly enjoyable all by themselves.

See you at the Mall!

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