cover image The Great Little Madison

The Great Little Madison

Jean Fritz. G. P. Putnam's Sons, $16.99 (159pp) ISBN 978-0-399-21768-5

Fritz ( Shh! We're Writing the Constitution! ) here presents a brisk, highly accessible biography of James Madison. Sickly as a child, Madison was a short, frail man with a wispy, small voice. His successes in incorporating personal freedoms into a reasonably strong centralized government and his enormous appetite for work earned him the sobriquet ``great.'' Madison's shyness and difficulty with public speaking were drawbacks during the politician's early days in Virginia government--as was the enmity of a powerful Patrick Henry--but behind-the-scenes speaking effectiveness and voluminous, well-reasoned writings more than compensated. In her characteristic way of bringing history to life, Fritz writes in a highly engaging, entertaining manner, providing vivid descriptions of Madison's close friendship with Thomas Jefferson; his long and apparently happy marriage to Dolly; the infighting during the creation of the Constitution; the patience with which our fourth president dealt with an unreasonable England, leading to the war of 1812--and that war's defeats and victories. Ages 10-up. (Nov.)