cover image Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought)

Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought)

Kathleen Krull. Harcourt Children's Books, $21 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200808-6

Krull (Lives of the Writers; Lives of the Athletes) has a proven knack for delivering generous dollops of covert asides along with fun facts and pertinent information when it comes to profiling famous figures. This latest effort does not disappoint. Beginning with her debunking of the myth that George Washington had wooden teeth, Krull briskly moves through the list of White House inhabitants, discussing their personality quirks and qualifications for elected office (or seeming lack thereof) as well as offering tidbits about their marriages and love lives, favorite foods and pastimes, family pets and, of particular import these days, scandals. She goes so far as to mention that President Clinton has ""admitted privately that he has had affairs,"" and hints at his reputation as a womanizer. Presidents whose terms had major historical significance and more recent chiefs of state are given longer entries (two to three pages) while the others receive paragraphs. All, however, are written up in the same chatty and intriguing tone. In watercolor-and-colored-pencil paintings, Hewitt, in her signature style, depicts each president with a very large head and smaller body. Background scenery and dress suggest the historical era and significant details about the man; those presidents with a full-page portrait include an inset, smaller portrait of the First Lady in the top left corner of the painting. Young readers will find many of the school-report essentials here--birthplaces and dates, number of terms in office--and plenty of items that will surely entertain as well as educate. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)