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A Kids' Guide to America's First Ladies (Kids' Guide to American History) Paperback – January 3, 2017
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Krull covers 45 first ladies in compact style, with tidbits readers will find intriguing. Abigail Adams hung laundry inside the White House, putting the presidential underclothes on view. Anna Harrison had 10 children. At one point, Jackie Kennedy and her kids had nine dogs in the White House. Krull isn't afraid to mention issues like slave ownership and infidelity, although with about five pages per figure, the profiles tend to stay on the surface. Each chapter is accompanied by at least one full-page illustration, and boxed highlights appear every few pages. A chronological "Women Break Through" time line appears periodically, noting events such as Harriet Tubman's activities with the Underground Railroad, the founding of the League of Women Voters, and Sandra Day O'Connor's appointment to the Supreme Court. The book is set to include 2016 election results. Students who have enjoyed Krull's "Giants of Science" series will recognize her middle grade—friendly mix of facts and humor. VERDICT Krull brings to life the diverse personalities of her subjects and shines light on lesser-known first ladies who may not have dedicated middle grade biographies of their own.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Written in an engaging style and full of pertinent, intriguing details, . . . this lively book profiles the women who have enjoyed, to varying degrees, the unique privileges and challenges of being first lady.” (Booklist)
“Krull brings to life the diverse personalities of her subjects and shines light on lesser-known first ladies who may not have dedicated middle grade biographies or their own.” (School Library Journal)
“While portraying the first ladies as products of their times and classes, Krull also positions nearly all as women who pushed against gender-based expectations and prejudices. An inspirational lot, overall, of women who have ‘enhanced our country in many resplendent ways.’” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
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Top customer reviews
For example the author writes about the affair President William Clinton had and how it affected Hillary. Several other First Ladies are mentioned when it comes to their husbands having affairs. As I wrote this is probably is not appropriate for younger readers and that's being kind.
A Kid's Guide to America's First Ladies would have been a better book if it had focussed on the positive attributes of the First Ladies and their families. I truly believe children should read the positive non-fiction as they will soon grow up and learn about the adult world. It would be nice if we could give young readers a chance to have a childhood.
Review written after downloading a galley from Edelweiss.
I must point out that these mini-biographies are honest. They do point out the bad habits of the Presidents and the First Ladies (Dolley Madison’s snuff habit, several First Ladies’ smoking habits, Betty Ford’s battle with substance abuse, many Presidents’ infidelities). Some may see this as inappropriate for younger readers, but I liked the honesty. I also liked Krull’s use of sidebars to show how things have progressed for women in general since our country began.
Had I helped organize this book, I might have done it differently, as well. Rather than a single separate chapter discussing Presidential wives who had passed away before their husbands’ Presidency or Buchanan’s lifelong bachelorhood, I would have liked it better had things stayed chronological by the Presidency, pointing out that, for instance, Jefferson was a widower; his wife Martha died nineteen years before he took office, and his daughter, also Martha, took care of the “typical” First Lady duties. Why not tell more about both Marthas?
Overall, though, this book kept this adult reader fascinated, and I would recommend it.
Most chapters include at least one insert about important historical women-related events, such as the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 when Edith Wilson was First Lady.
There are also inserts about other important historical female figures and important events that took place while each First Lady was in the White House. For instance, Harriett Tubman published her book, UNCLE TOM'S CABIN in 1852 when Abigail Fillmore was First Lady, and Frances Perkins became the first female to serve as a member of a presidential candidate for FDR when Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady.
Nearly every chapter also includes some extra interesting tidbits and/or trivia about a First Lady. For instance, did you know that Jacqueline Kennedy was an accomplished equestrian, Louisa Adams played the harp and Betty Ford was both a dancer and a fashion model before she became First Lady?
I must say that I often find these types of books a bit dry and encyclopedic in nature. But, I am happy to report that such is not the case with this book. Its pages are filled with interesting stories and lively writing that make the oft-forgotten First Ladies memorable.
This would make a great book for use in the classroom when doing units on historical female figures in general, or concentrating on the First Ladies in particular. It also just makes for plain good reading for anyone who simply likes good stories.
Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin