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New books about presidents and black history

“The White House: A Pop-Up of Our Nation’s Home”

  • By Robert Sabua
  • Best for ages 6 – 9

There is no question as to who the king of pop-up books is — Robert Sabuda. He is part artist, part engineer and all story teller.

Sabuda brings such detail and wonder to his creations that readers are transported into the environments. In “The White House,” Sabuda takes readers on a tour of the president’s home beginning with the North Face, and visiting the East Room, the Lincoln Bedroom, the Rose Garden, the Oval Office and the South Lawn. The pages offer interesting information about the rooms and a stanza from the poem “Inauguration Day” by Richard Watson Gilder. If you are a pop-up collector or fan of Sabuda, you won’t be disappointed. If you are interested in American history, or traveling to Washington, D.C., you won’t be disappointed either. From a spread of the chandelier in the East Room to the full White House facade, each work will make you say, “Wow!”

What’s good: Amazing craftsmanship that offers a chance to create wonder.

What’s bad: The poem seemed superfluous, while the facts added more interest.

“A Birthday Cake for George Washington”

  • By Ramin Ganeshram
  • Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
  • Best for ages 7 – 10

History is filled with interesting stories. Sometimes we get to share them as picture books. In this story we hear about a real event through the voice of chef Hercules’ daughter. The chef takes great pride in his work and desires to make the best birthday cake ever. Unfortunately, the sugar is missing. The daughter’s eagerness drives the pacing of this story and highlights the family bond. Through it all a bittersweet taste is left in your mouth as you realize that the chef and his daughter are slaves. Although they get to bake for the president and taste treats, the one thing they will never taste is freedom. “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” is a good story for classroom story time, for discussing presidential birthdays and for Black History Month. It is satisfying for both the visual style and the tasty text.

What’s good: The humor draws you in. The guidance keeps you going.

What’s bad: Journals are always a hard sell to kids.

“Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass”

  • By Dean Robbins
  • Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko 
  • Best for ages 4 – 8 

Children learning about civil rights could surely use this primer about two huge icons for the movement — Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Robbins excels at including both individual’s biographic information while simultaneously sharing their thoughts on civil rights. The illustrations use mixed media to capture the moment these two figures meet for tea and discuss why some people have rights and other don’t. Obviously, they both wanted all people to be treated equally. The story is intricately woven to really capture the essence of life in the late 1800s. Two Friends will be a great addition for any classroom setting.

What’s good: The engaging illustrations keep children entertained and wanting to know more.

What’s bad: Longer author’s notes on the lives of both Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass would have been nice.

Talk to McGeath

Find more reviews by McGeath Freeman here.