Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Non-Fiction
You're on Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt

You're on Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt

Fall 2004 Non-Fiction
Ages: 5 - 12 yrs.
Author: Judith St. George
Illustrator: Matt Faulkner
ISBN: 0-399-23888-3
Hardcover Price: $16.99
In familiar advertisements in yesteryear's comic books, Charles Atlas (once a "97 pound weakling") sold his regimen of bodybuilding exercises by picturing a bully kicking sand in the face of a thin fellow lying at the beach with his girlfriend. The young Teddy Roosevelt, Judith St. George tells us, was also a puny child and suffered horribly from asthma. But he overcame those problems by playing outdoors, going to the gym, camping and riding, and learning how to box in order to take on childhood bullies who taunted him about his thick glasses. He became the twenty-sixth president of the United States.

This book is the first in a promised series of stories about the childhoods of our forty-two presidents and the "turning point in their young lives." These days, predictably, that means "Facing Problems and Overcoming Them." Another president (Ronald Reagan) once said, "Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them." The same might be said about much of contemporary children's publishing.

Aside from exemplary problem-solving, then, there is one good reason to buy this book and that is Matt Faulkner's terrific pictures. Faulkner knows the one piece of advice routinely given to amateur photographers: always take several steps closer to the scene you wish to capture. But more than this, he has a comic genius that recalls the very best of similar moments in Disney's films (say, the village scene in "Beauty and the Beast" or caricatures in "Pinocchio"). This comic touch is just the right counterbalance to this earnest story because it reminds us that, besides grit and determination, problems are just as often solved (or dissolved) by wit and humor.

Jerry Griswold is Director of the Children's Literature program at San Diego State University. His most recent book is The Meanings of "Beauty and the Beast" (Broadview Press).
Jerry Griswold   ©2004 Parents' Choice

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