cover image Robert F. Kennedy: Crusader

Robert F. Kennedy: Crusader

Marc Aronson, Mark Aronson, . . Viking, $15.99 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-670-06066-5

Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated on June 4, 1968, just after winning the California Democratic primary. Many Americans remember him as a passionate, hardworking man who fought for fairer working conditions, civil rights, health care and education for the nation's poor, and an end to the Vietnam war. But in this biography, one of four launch titles in the Up Close series of 20th-century figures, Aronson portrays another, more complicated side to Bobby Kennedy. During his years working with Senator Joe McCarthy on his anti-Communist crusade, working to eradicate organized crime, and in 1959 while running brother John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign, Bobby comes across as ruthless. He was also single-minded ("Everything he did from the day he was born to the day he died would be with the family, and for the family," Aronson writes). The author nicely sets the stage for this family bond with tales from Bobby's childhood; as a boy, Bobby was considered the "runt" of his family, which only motivated him to work harder to be seen as a man. And after John's death in 1963, Bobby was forced to make a choice: to back Lyndon Johnson or set his own course (and Aronson's picture of their behind-the-scenes tug-of-war will likely fascinate budding history and political buffs). This biography sometimes feels pulled off center by its focus on John rather than Bobby Kennedy, but perhaps that's inevitable, given how deeply intertwined the brothers' lives were. Aronson smoothly weaves in the influential personalities of the era, such as J. Edgar Hoover and Jimmy Hoffa, and will surely ignite in young people an interest in this pivotal era. Ages 11-up. (Apr.)