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The Next President

The Next PresidentWho the next U.S.A. pres­i­dent will be is pre-occu­py­ing many minds around the world right now. This book takes a stance by telling us about the dis­tinc­tive pres­i­dents of the past, a cou­ple of sen­tences about every one of them, #1 through #45, and asks us to real­ize that the next ten pres­i­dents are prob­a­bly alive right now. Who will they be? Such an intrigu­ing question.

The struc­ture of this book is fas­ci­nat­ing. We are intro­duced by won­der­ing who the pres­i­dents of the future will be. Then we are sit­u­at­ed in four time peri­ods: 1789, 1841, 1897, and 1961. We look at what the pres­i­dents or soon-to-be pres­i­dents are doing in that year. Some of them are accom­plished men and some are still chil­dren. How does what they’re doing in that year shape their lives?

In 1789, Thomas Jef­fer­son (#3) is serv­ing as sec­re­tary of State. “In 1776, he had writ­ten the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence, which includes the words ‘all men are cre­at­ed equal’ — even though Jef­fer­son enslaved hun­dreds of peo­ple on his Vir­ginia plan­ta­tion.” Nei­ther the author nor illus­tra­tor side­step uncom­fort­able truths in this book. Rex depicts African Amer­i­can slaves build­ing Wash­ing­ton, D.C., behind the future presidents.

The Next President

illus­tra­tion © Adam Rex, The Next Pres­i­dent, writ­ten by Kate Mess­ner, pub­lished by Chron­i­cle Books, 2020

In 1897, Franklin Delano Roo­sevelt (#32) “was a col­lec­tor, too. He kept detailed records about his postage stamp, bird nest, and egg collections.”

The book fin­ish­es by ask­ing us to con­sid­er where the next pres­i­dent is now. The illus­tra­tions show a diverse group of peo­ple walk­ing through a gallery of pres­i­den­tial (and near-pres­i­den­tial) paint­ings. “When vot­ers choose the next pres­i­dent, they won’t look to the past, but to future — and the ever-hope­ful vision of what Amer­i­ca could be.”

We need to con­sid­er our future now … and always. For­ward-think­ing. Vot­ing is our duty as cit­i­zens. Hav­ing knowl­edge of our his­to­ry and look­ing ahead to what this coun­try needs in its lead­ers … that’s our respon­si­bil­i­ty. This is a good book for the class­room and at-home dis­cus­sions. We’re giv­en some way to dif­fer­en­ti­ate each of the past pres­i­dents, hope­ful­ly inspir­ing fur­ther explo­ration, and most impor­tant­ly we are asked to think. Chil­dren or adults, we all have to think carefully.

The illus­tra­tions suit the text admirably. Each pres­i­dent is iden­ti­fi­able whether they’re chil­dren or adults, and they’re each thought­ful­ly num­bered. There are sub­tle facial expres­sions that por­tray char­ac­ter … and even pres­i­den­tial pets get a dou­ble-page spread.

Rec­om­mend­ed.

The Next President
The Unex­pect­ed Begin­nings and Unwrit­ten Future of America’s Presidents
writ­ten by Kate Messner
illus­trat­ed by Adam Rex
Chron­i­cle Books, 2020

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