See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House, Updated Edition

See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House Updated Edition by Susan E. Goodman.  Illustrated by Elwood H. Smith.  Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers, 2008, 2012.  96 pages.  Publisher recommends for ages 8-12. 

See How They Run explains in a lighthearted way the process of electing a president of the United States. The book covers a great deal of territory, starting with a short history of democracy and ending with the importance of voting and participating in other ways in the democratic process. Yet the chapters are short and the information easy to absorb. The illustrations augment the humor of the text and add humor of their own.

The text of the book becomes a bit confusing in the attempt to explain presidential primaries and the conventions. For example consider this sentence “Each primary is a ‘pre-election election’ that determines one state’s choice for the candidate who will RUN for president.”  But actually both the Democrats and the Republicans vote in the primaries.  Members of each party make their choice.  But what each party actually sends to the convention are delegates pledged to a certain candidate based on who won the primary.  In some states the winner of the primary takes all the delegates. In some states the winner of the primary takes some of the delegates and so do the other candidates based on how much of the popular vote they earned. This gets very complicated and I can understand Ms. Goodman’s desire to simplify it.  However, in the rest of the book she is so good at making complicated concepts straightforward that I bet she could have done it in this section about primaries as well.

The last chapter, in which Ms. Goodman addresses the importance of voting and talks about ways that kids can be involved in elections and in the democratic process reads like a great pep talk. And at the end of the pep talk, there’s great list of other books to read, DVDs to watch and websites to visit where kids can get involved in politics.

The book makes the whole subject of presidential elections fascinating and exciting. It’s fun, and it makes politics seem fun.

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