June 28, 2007


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Make Your Mark, Franklin Roosevelt, by Judith St. George, illustrated by Britt Spencer (2007, Penguin)
Reviewed by Lisa Parsons news@hippopress.com

Judith St. George has written more than 40 children’s books, including Caldecott winner So You Want to Be President? This one is the latest in a series that started with You’re on Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt (2004) and Take the Lead, George Washington (2005). Stand Tall, Abe Lincoln is planned for next year.

The author’s foreword expresses her interest in presidents’ formative years, asking “Was there a turning point in their young lives that … set them on a path that led them to the White House?” In six lavishly illustrated chapters, sprinkled with actual quotes from speeches and letters, Make Your Mark shows Roosevelt as shy but bossy only child, a picked-on teenager at boarding school, a debating star and then a young man impressed by his cousin Theodore. The book ends with Franklin at 18, graduating from Groton School, and sums up with “he never forgot how the Reverend Endicott Peabody had unlocked his mind and heart to … serving his country with honor.” Thus boarding school, marked by the presence of an admired rector, is Franklin’s turning point. A separate end page summarizes the rest of his career and offers a bibliography. On the one hand, the book helps you realize that presidents are real people too and that even a picked-on kid can go on to do great things. On the other hand, what it really helps you realize is that presidents are cartoons... B+ —Lisa Parsons