Did you know that problems with the United States Electoral College arose as early as the second presidential election? In 1796 John Adams became president with only a three-vote lead in electoral votes over his opponent, Thomas Jefferson. Therefore, Jefferson, the second-place finisher, became vice president, as the Constitution then dictated. The problem was that Adams and Jefferson belonged to two different political parties and had very different ideas about how our nation should be run.

You'll learn all of this and much more in Ann Bausum's fact-filled reference, Our Country's Presidents. I've always loved books like this, and they're perfect for young students, anywhere from third grade on up. It's ideal to have one or two around the house for school reports, browsing or a quick answer to a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire question.

As I leisurely perused these pages, for instance, I discovered that: James Garfield was the last president born in a log cabin and the first left-handed president; Chester Arthur's sister was his First Lady (his wife had died); Gerald Ford is the only president never elected to the offices of president or vice president.

Our Country's Presidents is well designed, with separate text entries for each leader, varying in length from a page or two to several. They provide a good overview of each life, including facts from childhood, family life and highlights of the administration. Also helpful is the accompanying fact box for each president, containing information such as nickname, political party affiliation, dates of birth, death, political terms and more. Along with plenty of photos, illustrations and charts, this lively volume also includes special sections on such topics as the White House and its history, kids in the White House and the electoral process. Timelines sprinkled throughout provide a sense of other coinciding news events, such as the sinking of the Titanic and the Wright Brothers' first flight.

Put this reference in the hands of young history scholars, and they'll have an excellent first lesson on our nation's leaders and basic American history, as well as loads of nifty trivia about the likes of "Give 'Em Hell Harry," "Tricky Dicky" and now, of course, "Dubya."

Alice Cary writes from her home in Massachusetts.

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