cover image First Mothers

First Mothers

Beverly Gherman, illus. by Julie Downing. Clarion, $17.99 (64p) ISBN 978-0-547-22301-8

Franklin Pierce's mother loved to shock her Puritan neighbors in New Hampshire "by wearing bright colors and skirts short enough to show her ankles." William McKinley's mother snatched roses from a train car to carry to her son's inauguration. The mother of five-star general Dwight Eisenhower was a pacifist. These are among the details Gherman (whose earlier children's books include biographies of John Quincy Adams and Jimmy Carter) unearths in this collection of profiles of the mothers of each of the U.S. presidents. Given the range of personalities covered, and presumably the historical resources available, some of the sketches are meatier than others. Among unsurprising accounts of hardworking women devoted to their families, Gherman inserts some lively, little-known zingers: Mary Ball Washington "was not impressed" when her son became the first president, and Nancy Hanks Lincoln "outwrestled many of the men in her town." Craftily mining the personalities of each woman, Downing (The Ice Cream King) contributes watercolor and colored pencil portraits of the mothers on their home turfs, humorously underscoring their many diverse eccentricities. Ages 6%E2%80%939. Illustrator's agent: Jane Feder. (Sept.)