THEODORE ROOSEVELT: Champion of the American Spirit

Betsy Harvey Kraft, Author . Clarion $19 (208p) ISBN 978-0-618-14264-4

Kraft (Mother Jones; Sensational Trials of the Twentieth Century) marshals Theodore Roosevelt's ebullience and forceful character to animate this colorful biography. The narrative traces how the sickly boy born in 1858 to New York aristocrats channeled his considerable will and intellect to become an athlete, fighter, naturalist, conservationist, cowboy, author and, of course, the 26th president of the United States. Carefully chosen details illustrate Roosevelt's larger-than-life enthusiasms (one senator recalls a hiking trip: "When we came to the stream, instead of deviating and seeking a bridge, Roosevelt strode right through the water, which was well up to the tops of his shoes, with never a break in his flow of speech, and just as if this was the most natural thing in the world to do"). Readers will enjoy Kraft's descriptions of Roosevelt's role as the adoring father of six famously rambunctious children, and they will admire his battles against corruption and his efforts to preserve wilderness. The author effectively employs quotes from Roosevelt and his contemporaries (including some from enemies); reproductions of Roosevelt's illustrated letters are particularly captivating. The institutional design does little to enliven the subject, several issues lack sufficient context (e.g., Roosevelt's role in a military controversy in Brownsville, Tex., that alienated black Americans) and some episodes seem superficially dismissed (e.g., during a grueling post-presidential expedition through Brazilian jungles, Roosevelt lost "much of the boyish spirit that had propelled him all his life"). These drawbacks aside, the biography delivers a lively portrait of an American hero. Illustrated with period photos, political cartoons and Roosevelt's own drawings. Ages 10-14. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/23/2003
Release date: 06/01/2003
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