cover image Rutherford B., Who Was He? Poems About Our Presidents

Rutherford B., Who Was He? Poems About Our Presidents

Marilyn Singer, illus. by John Hendrix. Disney-Hyperion, $17.99 (56p) ISBN 978-1-4231-7100-3

This ambitious rhyming look at America’s commander in chief is, like the presidencies themselves, a mixture of hits and misses. Singer’s (Follow Follow) attempt both to be breezy and to give a sense of historical sweep can lead to a few awkward moments. “The most peace-loving leaders give up their credos,” begins her salute to Wilson, “when faced with attacks from German torpedoes.” But she doesn’t shy from potentially touchy issues (Reagan’s place in history, the Clinton “scandals, the trial, the chagrin”), and she infuses the familiar with new meaning, as in her verse for Teddy Roosevelt: “He took on greedy corporations/ and foreign powers with this trick:/ A president should speak quite softly/ but always carry a very large stick.” Hendrix’s (A Boy Called Dickens) mixed-media, editorial-style portraits are handsome, often incorporating bold typographical quotes from the presidents. He imaginatively links one leader to another (a cut-paper stock market graph portrays the economic trends that led voters from Bush 41 to Clinton, for example) so readers see history not as a series of isolated moments, but as a continuous trajectory. Ages 6–8. (Dec.)