Friday, January 02, 2009

Book Review: Madam President

*Edited to Correct my spelling of Madam. It's the French I took as a kid that forced me to spell it with an e on the end....oops!

I adore children's books. As a kid, and even today, I read voraciously. As an adult, I've collected children's books for years. Sixteen years as a paraprofessional, 14 of which were with 4-8 year olds, I read and breathed children's books.

So understandably, when I was sent some books to review, I practically danced.

The first thing that caught my eye about Madam President was the illustrations. For me, the words in a picture book only tell half the story. A good artist provides the tiny tidbits of humor and feeling to the story, just by the pictures. In Madam President, Lane Smith does exactly that. Both Jake and I giggled over the picture of a Mr. Potato Head as the "Secretary of Agriculture", and a Secret Service feline. The pictures are beautiful and intricately detailed, to the point where it took a few readings to really absorb all the tiny bits that they add to the story.

I love that. For me, and Jake as well, it's this quality that makes a children's book go from mediocre to outstanding.

The story itself follows a young girl in the day of the life of a president. She negotiates treaties, kisses babies, creates a cabinet from her menagerie of toys, holds a press conference, is guarded by a secret service cat, and even uses the power of veto against tuna casserole in the school cafeteria. Tidbits of humor pop up in unexpected places (ever heard of a Secretary of Pizza?) , which is another quality that makes me love specific kid's books. Let's face it-no parent enjoys reading a boring book. If the book amuses the parent, they will be far more into reading, and ultimately buying it.

Some of the words may be complicated for young readers, making this more of a read aloud story. However, the illustrations really get the meaning of the more complicated vocabulary such as "diplomat", and "negotiate"across in a child friendly way, and opens the doors for discussion with your children.

After such a historic election year, I'm sure that many families are talking about presidents with their kids. This book would be a wonderful tool to help explain what a president's job actually is. Even though we are Canadian, I believe that it's important for our children to understand the role of the President of the USA, as it also affects us as a nation.

I loved this book! The true test though, was when I handed it to Jake. You'd think that at 13, he'd have no interest because he's past the world of picture books. At first he pushed it aside, but one closer glance at the cover and he was hooked. Reading it cover to cover he smiled, then giggled, and at one point laughed out loud.

"That is a great book, Mom. I gotta show that to my Social Studies teacher. She'd love it!"

*Note: all children's books (for ages 0-10) given to Notes From the Cookie Jar to review will be donated to a local library or charity

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