Remember the Ladies: Celebrate Presidents' Day with Kids' Books about Women in the White House

remember the ladies presidents day book long enough

"And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation." -- Abigail Adams in a 1776 letter to her husband, John.

Oh, how I love that quote. Abigail Adams meant business, and she and her husband John had an unusually egalitarian, intellectual relationship for the late 18th century. If you'd like to know more about this witty, brilliant first lady, read this or watch this

Presidents' Day got me thinking about first ladies, instead of presidents. There are some really neat books out there about first ladies, and a superbly clever one about a first daughter. And then I remembered a couple of picture books that are fictional, about girls who want to be president, and I wanted to share those with you, too. I'm looking forward to the day when we can count a woman among the presidents of the United States. Until then, let's celebrate by sharing these titles.

Eleanor: Quiet No More by Doreen Rappaport and Gary Kelley

I'm starting off with Eleanor Roosevelt because she's one of my favorite people of all time, and because she's largely credited with changing the role of first lady from hostess to activist. Doreen Rappaport has a stellar reputation as a class-A children's biographer, and she's clearly done her homework for this picture book, once again. Here's what School Library Journal said about Eleanor: 

Starred Review. Grades 3–8. Once again Rappaport celebrates a noble, heroic life in powerful, succinct prose, with prominent, well-chosen, and judiciously placed quotes that both instruct and inspire. From her lonely childhood to her transformative education in Europe and marriage to Franklin Roosevelt, the subject is portrayed as a serious, intelligent, hardworking humanitarian. Despite the picture-book format, students get enough background and information to appreciate the woman's outstanding qualities and contributions as well as enough details for reports.

Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appely and Joy Fisher Hein

From a lonely childhood in the Piney Woods of East Texas to an exciting life in the White House, Lady Bird Johnson loved these wildflowers with all her heart. They were her companions in her youth, greeting her everywhere as she explored wild forests, bayous, and hills. Later, as First Lady, she sought to bring the beauty of wildflowers to America's cities and highways. She wanted to make sure every child could enjoy the splendor of wildflowers.

Abigail Adams: First Lady of the American Revolution by Patricia Lakin, Bob Dacey, and Debra Bandelin

This may very well be the only easy reader biography of a first lady currently in print. It's written for kids reading at roughly a second to third grade reading level. And it was named to the American Library Association's Amelia Bloomer List

The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming

Candace Fleming has an outstanding reputation for middle and high school biographies, not to mention picture books for younger audiences. In this award-winning book for kids ages 10 to 14, Fleming gives Mary Todd just as much coverage as her famous husband. In a starred review, School Library Journal wrote: 

Presented in period typefaces, the boxed bits of text, sidebars, and numerous running heads and subheads add detail. From portraits to pets, the book contains a wide variety of graphics, including written and visual primary documents that enrich every spread. Notes, resources, and source notes are exemplary. It's hard to imagine a more engaging or well-told biography of the Lincolns.

Dolley Madison Saves George Washington by Don Brown

In a starred review, Kirkus said:

Brown continues his string of exemplary biographies for younger readers with this profile of the most charming, charismatic and intrepid first lady ever. Between shorter looks at DolleyMadison's earlier and later life, he focuses on her leading role in Washington society and her courage during the War of 1812. After the soldiers who were supposed to guard the presidential mansion fled, she lingered to make sure that a life-sized Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington was removed before the occupying British could destroy it, and then disguised herself as a farm woman to get away.

Madam President: The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics by Candace Thimmesh and Douglas B. Jones

In a starred review, Booklist wrote:

Delightful and informative in equal parts, Thimmesh's collective biography profiles women who took up the fight for women's political rights. A story about a girl who is ridiculed for wanting to be president frames the introduction to the many women who have cleared the path that will eventually lead to a female president. Divided into groups such as suffragettes, First Ladies, and politicians in the U.S and around the world ... Jones' pencil artwork, colored using Photoshop, makes the book so enticing. [T]he illustrations personalize both the long list of women who have stepped up as well as the girl who is inspired by their stories. 

Madam President works best for kids ages nine to 14.

Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies by Cokie Roberts and Diane Goode

Who could ask for better than NPR journalist Cokie Roberts and award-winning children's illustrator Diane Goode, all in one book? Kirkus gave this one a starred review:

[A]n attractive and compelling version for young people of Roberts' adult book of the same title. Goode's illustrations are often breathtaking. On the endpapers, she has reproduced in sepia tones with antique pens some of the source documents that allow readers to know these women. Roberts' lively text is illuminated with flourishes and curlicues along with winsome or whimsical portraits in what looks like ink and watercolor. Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison and Martha Washington are included of course, and there's also Mercy Otis Warren, who wrote letters and poems championing the cause of freedom, and Eliza Lucas Pinckney, whose "little schemes" included raising silkworms and cultivating indigo as a cash crop. It is a wonderful package, adding the women who made it work to the men we thought we all knew. 

What to Do About Alice: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy! by Barbara Kerley and Edwin Fotheringham

I cannot say enough good stuff about this exciting, hilarious look at Teddy Roosevelt's daughter Alice. Read my full review here. 

First Garden: The White House Garden and How It Grew by Robbin Gurley

School Library Journal wrote in its review:

Beginning with an introduction to the White House and its grounds, Gourley then describes some of the children who have lived there and the ways in which they used the outdoor space. A portrait of the Obama family introduces the section on gardening for food at the White House, from John Adams in 1800 through Eleanor Roosevelt in 1943. The narrative then turns to Michelle Obama and how she invited children from nearby schools to help prepare the soil, plant, cultivate, and ultimately cook and eat the produce; how the White House chefs became involved in the process; and how food from the First Garden now helps feed the Obamas as well as people at a Washington, DC, homeless shelter. A beautiful and timely addition.

Madam President by Lane Smith

Lane Smith produces original, witty children's books, and this one received two starred reviews. 

A little girl imagines what her day would be like if she were Madam President. There would be executive orders to give, babies to kiss, tuna casseroles to veto (or VETO!) and so much more! Not to mention that recess would definitely require more security.

With deadpan wit and hilarious illustrations, best-selling picture book creator Lane Smith introduces readers to an unforgettable new character.

Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio and LeUyen Pham

An offering from two talented picture book creators!

"Where are the girls?" When Grace's teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides to be the first. And she immediately starts off her political career as a candidate the school's mock election! Author Kelly DiPucchio not only gives readers a fun introduction to the American electoral system, but also teaches them the value of hard work, courage, and independent thought--and offers an inspiring example of how to choose our leaders.

Imogene's Last Stand by Candace Fleming and Nancy Carpenter

Another Amelia Bloomer List winner! School Library Journal wrote:

Imogene is a feisty child who loves history and spouts quotes from famous people on all occasions. When she discovers the now-abandoned Historical Society building in her New Hampshire town, she cleans it up and opens it as a museum. No one comes. Then one morning she finds a sign posted outside the building stating that it will be torn down to make room for a shoelace factory. Imogene tries to enlist the aid of the mayor and other influential people, but they all say that the factory will put them on the map. At the last minute, she finds a letter in the museum that was written by George Washington to indicate that he had slept there. The President of the United States (an African-American woman) appears and declares the museum a national landmark.

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