Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another Review

First -- some prompts:

One orange button

Glittering golden in the west

Blowing through the vents

And now, a review:
Today I realized that I'm not reviewing nearly enough books that I really should be. As a librarian and a writer, I think it kind of necessary that I keep on top of this, and it appears that I am woefully negligent on it. So this afternoon, instead of my boring musings, here's a review on a book I read today:

Our Country's Presidents, by Ann Bausum, published by the National Geographic Society.

What's good about it:
It covers all 44 of them, including Obama, and gives at least one full page of information on each one, as well as a full page, full color illustration of each one.

In addition to the highlights (and lowlights) of their terms, it also provides some interesting trivia about each President. William Howard Taft, for instance, enjoyed playing golf. James Garfield was left-handed. William McKinley liked to wear a red carnation in his jacket and would often give it away to strangers to whom he was introduced.

The lineage is often "interrupted" with information on the presidency in general, usually info that has to do with the president previous. Following Teddy Roosevelt is content on First Children. John Tyler precedes information on the Vice Presidency. Facts on the White House follows John Adams (the first one to live there). And after JFK comes content on the supposed Twenty Year Curse.

An appendix in the back provides information on the different election results -- all 44 of them, and includes info on who won, who lost, who belonged to which party, who the vice president became, how much of the popular vote each candidate received, as well as how many electoral votes each one received. It also includes the seven men who became president without an election.

What I didn't like about it:
Some of the trivia, particularly that in regards to First Offspring, lacks consistency. For George Washington, it mentions his wife's two children from her previous marriage, but it doesn't do the same for James Madison (Dolley Madison had a son from her first marriage). It also mentions that Willie Lincoln was the only child to die in the White House, but doesn't mention Cal Coolidge at all. And several children were listed as having "died young," with no real indication of what this means (none of Pierce's three children, and only half of Lincoln's four lived past age 11, but only two of them are mentioned as having "died young").

It includes the signature of each President. While this is a cool feature, I might point out that for Lincoln, the copy of his signature includes his full name, which he very rarely wrote out.

The amount of information on each president is extremely varied. I admit that it makes since to dedicate several pages to men such as Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, and not as much on the lesser known ones of Pierce or Hayes, However, the majority of the four pages on Grant is on his war-time conquests -- info on his actual presidency is limited to two paragraphs, the same amount, oddly enough, that was given to William Henry Harrison's time in office.

General conclusion:
The book is very comprehensive, has wonderful illustrations, and is full of unique, interesting facts on all the presidents. Most of the discrepancies are on the tiniest details. If someone is looking for general information on a particular president, or on the presidency in general, this would be a good source.

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