Tuesday, November 6th, is shaping up to be one of the biggest midterm elections in our nation’s great history. Regardless of your political party or the outcome of this election, we should all be filled with pride by our nation’s rich and storied history over its relatively short time in existence. From Disney Hyperion comes a picture book called Have You Heard About Lady Bird? Poems About Our First Ladies by Marilyn Singer with illustrations by Nancy Carpenter that celebrates our heritage through the eyes of the women that stood behind our commanders in chief.
This book is actually a follow up to a title by the same author published in 2013 called Rutherford B. Who Was He? Poems About Our Presidents. Both books make history accessible to kids through clever poems that say a lot about each person with rhymes and unique approaches. The illustrators for each volume are different, but both bring these legends of history to life in unique ways.
The book begins with a poem about First Ladies in general that serves as a perfect introduction to the topic. It then progresses through each First Lady to ever spend time in the White House, beginning with Martha Washington in 1789 and ending in 2018 with Melania Trump. There are 46 pages of poems about each wife of the President, all 46 of them.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the book is that many of these poems reveal what each First Lady thought about their position and their feelings towards it. You get to see a progression of each wife taking on a more active role in politics, or having a determination to leave their mark on the White House before their time was up. One of the real treasures of a book like this is that it humanizes historical figures and also puts modern First Ladies in perspective. Regardless of your political views, it will hopefully humanize our most recent wives of Presidents.
Nancy Carpenter’s illustrations are delightful, with varying styles used throughout. Her more cartoony approach almost reminds me of Ludwig Bemelmans, who illustrated the infamous Madeline series. She sometimes gets more realistic with her approach as well, but always creative. For example, while most of the First Ladies are depicted doing some sort of action from the waist up, Jackie Kennedy is shown in black and white on a funeral at her husband’s funeral with silhouettes of American’s watching and mourning for hers and this nation’s loss.
The book more often than not takes on a lighthearted and almost whimsical tone with most of its subjects. It avoids all modern controversy, but reveals some that are decades old and no longer scandalous. Pages 47 through 56 offers some more text for readers who want to know more, including bios and quotes from each First Lady.
Have You Heard About Lady Bird? Poems About our First Ladies is an inspiration to all who read it. Whether intended for daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, or students, all who read it will walk away feeling more connected to our past and more determined about our future. It’s perfect for any day of the year, but especially on an election day.