Award-winning author Doreen Rappaport delivers another perfectly polished historical gem with To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt. In this impressive picture-book biography, she skillfully blends the personal and political stories of the nation’s 26th president, adding Roosevelt’s own words to the mix through quotes that enrich the narrative while delivering a sense of the plainspoken eloquence for which he was famous. (Proof that Teddy was ahead of his time in the sound-bite department: “Speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far.”)
This thorough yet kid-friendly narrative provides a fascinating peek into the politician’s early years. Born in New York City in 1858, Roosevelt suffered so badly from asthma as a boy that he had to sleep sitting up. He was a serious reader of books about science and history, but he was also a mischief-maker who loved pulling pranks. He graduated from Harvard University in 1880 and embarked on a political career studded with milestones, serving as U.S. Civil Service Commissioner, as New York City’s police commissioner and as assistant secretary of the Navy. In 1898, when the United States went to war with Spain, he established the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, known as the Rough Riders, whom he led in the famous attack on San Juan Hill. At the age of 42 he became the youngest president of the United States, earning a reputation as a “trust-buster” and an advocate of conservation projects.
Rappaport, whose previous biographies include Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln, hits all the high points in Roosevelt’s life. C.F. Payne’s detailed illustrations have a timeless authenticity, and they successfully reflect the many moods of a multi-faceted man: stern speechmaker, intrepid explorer, fun-loving father. A reading list and timeline of key events add to the appeal of this inspiring biography.