The other day, one of my son's classmates began quizzing the other children about whether they were Democrats or Republicans. Because these were first-graders, they were a little confused.
The teacher quickly put a stop to the questioning so the kids could focus on more important things, like their spelling lesson. Still, since a lot of grown-ups are intensely interested in the presidential race, kids are bound to be curious about it, too.
Here are a few books for children ages 4-8 to help you explain to them what's going on — and maybe get them started on becoming informed voters themselves someday. (All regular prices are listed but check around to find the best deal and also see if your local library has it in stock.)
DUCK FOR PRESIDENT by Doreen Cronin ($16.99, Atheneum): The writer who brought us the barnyard labor lesson called Click Clack Moo — Cows That Type" now tackles politics. The mischievous Duck, trying to dodge his farm chores, runs a somewhat slippery campaign for farmer, then governor and at last president — and learns that winning is easier than governing. An amusing, if somewhat cynical, book, featuring a few historical allusions that parents will chuckle about and then have to explain to their kids.
MADAM PRESIDENT by Lane Smith ($16.99, Hyperion Books): After producing the hilarious history lesson John, Paul, George & Ben, Smith's sly new book allows kids to see how being president is a little like being a kid: kissing babies, posing for photos, and dealing with a crisis (like cleaning your room). Best part: the new lyrics for Hail to the Chief."
IF I RAN FOR PRESIDENT by Catherine Stier ($6.99, Albert Whitman & Co.): Less interested in comedy than civics, Stier takes kids step-by-step through the campaign process — but with kids as the candidates, rather than grown-ups. There are quick explanations of political parties, debates, and dealing with the media. The book seemed to go on a little long, but my kids paid attention through the whole thing, and afterward asked some good questions.
MAX FOR PRESIDENT by Jarrett J. Krosoczka ($6.99, Dragonfly Books): This book uses a class election to talk about all that goes into campaigning — posting signs, making promises about "better indoor recesses" and dealing with political compromise. The writing is aimed more for younger kids who may not be familiar with elections, and it doesn't explicitly discuss presidential politics. But it lays the groundwork for other books on that topic.
MY TEACHER FOR PRESIDENT by Kay Winters ($6.99, Puffin): Another book targeted more toward the younger set, this one's set up is somewhat similar to Madam President." A kid talks about why he thinks that what his teacher does every day qualifies her to run for president: She finds jobs for everyone, keeps the peace and "she's always signing important papers."
LARUE FOR MAYOR: LETTERS FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL by Mark Teague ($16.99, Blue Sky Press): LaRue, the clever canine featured in Teague's original "letters from" book, targets a mayoral candidate who wants to rid the town of dogs — and winds up turning him around, as well as snagging some treats. Another book that views the political process with a cynical eye. Still, my kids enjoyed laughing at the contrast between what happened and LaRue's political expedient explanations.
Craig Pittman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8530.