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Election Books for Kids

The Martha Stewart Show, October 2008

Now is the perfect time to talk to your children about the process of electing a president and the presidency itself. Peter Glassman, the owner of New York children's bookstore, Books of Wonder, has some great books to help start the conversation.

"President Pennybaker" by Kate Feiffer
"President Pennybaker" is about a boy who decides after being sent to his room that life isn't fair. He realizes that in order to change things he needs to be in charge and that to be in charge he needs to get elected. So he goes on the campaign trail as a member of the Birthday Party and gets people excited by promising to make life fair, which to him means "every child in America will get a dog, a cat, or a hamster or a rabbit or an iguana!" He wins the election, but soon finds out that not everyone agrees on what is fair -- and that making everyone happy is not easy. So, he gives the presidency over to someone who can better handle it: his running mate, who happens to be his dog, President Pennybaker.

"Otto Runs for President" by Rosemary Wells
"Otto Runs for President" is the story of a dog who runs for school president. It deals more with the electoral process itself, starting with getting your name on the ballot, which takes "50 paw prints" in this case. It talks about what makes a person a good leader: Is it about being popular? Is it about promising things even if you can't deliver them -- like skateboarding in the halls, more mirrors in the girls' bathroom, or soda in the water fountains? Or is it about talking to people and seeing what is important to them? When the votes are tallied, it is Otto -- not the most popular, but the most reasonable -- who wins. Like all great picture books, it relies on humor to teach.

"Madam President" by Lane Smith
"Madame President" is the story of a little girl who imagines what her day would be like if she were president. Her "capable cabinet" includes her piggy bank as her Secretary of the Treasury and her Mr. Potato Head as her Secretary of Agriculture and also includes a Secretary of Naps. The treaties she negotiates are between a fighting dog and cat. Author Lane Smith, who is a two-time Caldecott winner, does an amazing job with the paper collage illustrations. His wife, Molly, art directs his books wonderfully; even the end papers are meticulously thought out.

"Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope" by Nikki Grimes
"Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope" starts out with a child watching television with his mother and asking who this man is with the kind of funny name. The format of the book is the conversation between this mother and son as she tells the story of young "Barry" whose "family stretched from Kansas to Kenya" -- from his mother's guiding influence to an adult Barack campaigning for the presidency. It opens up the door to talk about the presidential candidate and people who are important in our lives, be they presidential candidates or not.

"My Dad, John McCain" by Meghan McCain
"My Dad, John McCain" was written by McCain's daughter, Meghan, about her father, as a memoir of his life. It talks about who he is and what his beliefs are, but also gives children an idea of what it might be like to have your dad be a public figure.

Special Thanks
Special thanks to Peter Glassman, owner of children's bookstore, Books of Wonder, for sharing information about these five wonderful books, which were given to our studio audience by Simon and Schuster Books, Hyperion Books, and Scholastic Books.

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