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Newly revised for 2011
IntroductionWe name schools and streets after our presidents and put their heads on our money. We envision them as larger-than-life leaders and boast that in America any child can aspire to be one. But what were the presidents really like—as human beings? We know that (so far) all have been white men. Most were wealthy, well-educated, members of Protestant religions, middle-aged (though visibly older when they left office), and married to women who encouraged or even directed them. Sometimes they seem to blur together, a bland bunch of faceless, wartless heroes.
Not to their neighbors. Those close to the presidents knew how to see the details, like who had feet bigger than his ego (Washington), who barked like a seal (Kennedy), who hosted the neighborhood Halloween parties (Nixon), who dissected small animals (Madison), who could make the president eat food he didn’t like (Franklin Roosevelt’s housekeeper), and who always had to be “it” during hide-arid-seek (Theodore Roosevelt). At least one president had actual warts (Lincoln), bribed dogs with candy-coated vitamins (Lyndon Johnson), dined on popcorn (Reagan), joked about dating mummies (Clinton), let mockingbirds eat from his own mouth (Jefferson), and fought watermelon-seed wars (Truman). As dangerous as it can be to he president—one in five has died on the joh—it can he dangerously enlightening to be a neighbor to one. Each man has been, in fact, colorful and quirky in his own way.
Focusing on modern presidents and the most notable names from the past, this book looks at our leaders with a cool, contemporary eye, respectful but definitely nosy. Other books discuss these men in relation to great historical events, the context of their actions, their political achievements, and public opinion rankings. This book is about the lives of presidents as fathers, husbands, pet owners, and neighbors. These are stories about hairstyles, attitudes, diets, bad habits, ailments, fears, money, sleep patterns, and underwear. They are offered now in the hope of surprising even those who believe they know the presidents well.--Kathleen Krull
“The entertaining gossipy style remains unaltered….It is the new information on our most recent presidents (learning, for instance, that President Obama has read all seven Harry Potter novels with his girls) that makes this worthwhile.”
“The author's combination of concisely presented facts and fascinating anecdotes remains inviting and informative, as she delves beyond each leader's public persona to show him as a regular human being. For example, Bush got into trouble in the fourth grade for "inking sideburns, a beard, and a mustache on his face," and Obama was brought "back to earth" after winning the Nobel Peace Prize by his daughters, who told him that "the day of the announcement was also the birthday of their Portuguese water dog, Bo, not to mention the start of a three-day weekend….Containing enough information to fuel short reports and satisfy history buffs, this book also makes an entertaining classroom read-aloud.”
--School Library Journal
Text copyright © by Kathleen Krull. Published by Harcourt, Inc. and reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.
All “Lives of” artwork copyright © by Kathryn Hewitt. Published by Harcourt, Inc. and reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.
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