Eyewitness: Vote

Eyewitness: Vote by Philip Steele.  DK Publishing, 2008.  72 pages.  Publisher recommends for ages 8-17.  ISBN: 9780756633820.

“Eyewitness: Vote” contains a remarkable amount of information about what it means to vote.  It follows both the history of and current status of voting rights worldwide.  The book spends a good deal of time on a history of democracy.  It explains the many different way countries worldwide have chosen to implement democracy. Besides that, it starts with “Citizens Assemblies” in ancient India and Iraq, then moves to the system of government called “demokratia” which started in Greece in 508 BCE, and traces the development of democracy forward from that time.  The reader will learn about Perikles, the French revolution, the rise of fascism, Thomas Paine, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.

The information is presented as topics, which each topic on a two page spread. Every spread includes an explanatory paragraph about the topic and beautiful photographs and captions related to each topic. For example, on the spread entitled “Polling Day” there’s a picture of a Nenets woman, from the Russian Arctic, placing her ballot in the ballot box.  The “Polling Day” spread includes seven other pictures and captions.

Vote invites the reader to dip into the book and become absorbed. One can start anywhere in the book and learn something about voting. It’s also possible to read the book cover to cover but because there’s no strong narrative line I found this frustrating.

At the end is a fascinating “timeline of democracy”, and an equally fascinating “A to Z of famous people.”  There’s also a very thorough index, which is a must in a book constructed as this one is.  In addition, there’s a large poster about voting and a CD of clip-art about voting.

I can imagine children pouring over this book in a classroom, in a library or in their homes.  And I can imagine children returning to it time after time.

Duck for President

Duck for President.  Written by Doreen Cronin.  Illustrated by Betsy Lewin.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004.  40 pages.  Publisher recommends for ages 4-8.  ISBN: 9780689863776.

This is a silly book.  Silly in a good way.  Silly in a way adults and kids can both appreciate. Duck starts out on Farmer Brown’s farm, where his jobs are to take out the trash, mow the lawn and grind coffee beans.  At the end of each day duck finds himself covered in bits of grass and espresso beans. So he decides to run for Farmer and he wins. But he discovers that running the farm is hard work, so he runs for governor. He wins by just a few votes. But he discovers that being governor is hard work, so he runs for president. He wins by just a few votes but he discovers that being president is hard work. He sees a help wanted ad for a duck that can mow the lawn and grind coffee beans, so he retreats to the farm to write his memoir.

The book is filled with political jokes adults will get. On the title page Duck raises his arms and holds his hands in victory signs like Richard Nixon did so many years ago. His poster in running for Farmer says he’s running for a “Kinder, Gentler Farm,” not far from George H. W. Bush’s slogan.

Duck does all the things a good candidate should do. He even “gave speeches that only other ducks could understand.”  And every time he wins a new job, he finds he’s covered from head to toe in gunk at the end of the day, the gunk just changes with each job.

As kids follow Duck’s races, they learn what’s involved in a political campaign, and how important each vote is, and one would hope they learn that if a duck can aspire to the highest office in the land, so can they!

The illustrations are very funny. They keep the story moving with their humor. They have details the reader won’t notice on the first or second or third reading. This means the book continues to be funny, time after time.