Kathleen Krull has written about many prominent figures, from Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president; to Cesar Chávez; to Houdini. She has a reputation for integrating facts with interesting anecdotes, and packaging the whole story in a narrative that will keep children interested and curious to learn more.
Her latest book, The Brothers Kennedy, affirms this reputation. In it, Krull chronicles the lives of Joe, John, Robert and Edward Kennedy, starting when they were children in Boston, discussing current events at the dinner table and excelling in sports and at school. The boys developed a sense of fairness and public service at a young age, but they were also struck by tragedy. At 29, the oldest brother, Joe, died while serving in World War II.
As we all know, John and Robert died far too young, as well, and Edward was left to carry the family’s torch, serving in the Senate for 46 years until his death in 2009. Krull acknowledges these tragedies, but she does not dwell on them. Rather, she emphasizes the family’s remarkable accomplishments, such as President Kennedy’s putting a man on the moon, or Robert’s fight against poverty. Repeatedly, Krull evokes the qualities of hope, compassion and loyalty. She writes, “The brothers Kennedy inspired these in one another. And so they have inspired others ever since.”
Watercolor illustrations by Amy June Bates beautifully express the brothers’ lives. Some display happier times—campaigning for office; eating dinner as a family; jumping into Cape Cod. Other illustrations, such as Robert and Edward embracing after John’s death, capture the pain that the family knew.
Even young readers unfamiliar with the Kennedys will enjoy Krull’s telling of America’s most famous political family. With real quotes, a timeline and historical notes built into the book, they will gain an ample history lesson, in addition to hearing a good story. Perhaps most important of all, they will be inspired to serve others.