Those Kennedys

Patrick and the PresidentAmer­i­ca has a fine tra­di­tion of elect­ed offi­cials who care deeply about the peo­ple, places, and poli­cies of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca. Two recent books high­light the good works of, and respect for, Jacque­line Bou­vi­er Kennedy Onas­sis and John Fitzger­ald Kennedy, the First Lady and Pres­i­dent from 1961 to 1963. Although Pres­i­dent Kennedy was assas­si­nat­ed just two short years into his term as Pres­i­dent, the First Lady con­tin­ued her work for the ben­e­fit of the peo­ple through­out her life.

In Patrick and the Pres­i­dent, Ire­land’s Late Late Show host, Ryan Tubridy, has writ­ten his first chil­dren’s book about Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy’s vis­it to his ances­tral home­land, Ire­land. In June of 1963, Pres­i­dent Kennedy spent four days in var­i­ous cities, vis­it­ing sites and meet­ing peo­ple. This book shares one boy’s expe­ri­ence of meet­ing the President.

Patrick Kennedy, John’s great-grand­fa­ther, left Ire­land in 1848 aboard a famine ship. Many peo­ple in Ire­land relied sole­ly on pota­toes as their food source, so when a blight affect­ed the pota­to crop, near­ly one mil­lion peo­ple starved to death and one mil­lion peo­ple emi­grat­ed to Amer­i­ca. The immi­grants retained a strong love for their orig­i­nal coun­try, which they passed along to their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. John F. Kennedy’s deci­sion to vis­it Ire­land was her­ald­ed by Irish peo­ple on both sides of the ocean.

The lan­guage of this sto­ry beau­ti­ful­ly por­trays the excite­ment the entire town felt as they wel­comed this world-famous Irish descen­dant back to the land of his roots. Patrick, the boy in the sto­ry, will be part of the chil­dren’s choir singing “The Boys of Wex­ford” when the Pres­i­dent vis­its … and his father nego­ti­ates a chance for Patrick to help serve tea to the Pres­i­dent when he vis­its the Ryans and Kennedys in New Ross. Emo­tions are high and expec­ta­tions are tense: who will get to talk with “Him­self”?

Tubridy is the author of a book writ­ten for adults: JFK in Ire­land: Four Days That Changed a Pres­i­dent. The infor­ma­tion here is dis­tilled in a way that feels per­son­al and imme­di­ate. Every child will iden­ti­fy with young Patrick, know­ing full well what it feels like to have high hopes for something.

P.J. Lynch, cur­rent­ly the Chil­dren’s Lau­re­ate of Ire­land, con­tributes near­ly pho­to­graph­ic illus­tra­tions of Patrick, his fam­i­ly, the heli­copters, the Pres­i­dent, and the food.

There are two pages in the back mat­ter that list Kennedy’s itin­er­ary dur­ing his four-day vis­it, along with three sepia-toned pho­tos. Don’t miss read­ing this infor­ma­tion — it’s quite interesting.

The close­ups and focus on Patrick and his fam­i­ly bring a pal­pa­ble excite­ment to the book, which encour­ages read­ing through­out a some­what long but ulti­mate­ly sat­is­fy­ing text. This would make a good read-aloud for dis­cussing sev­er­al things in class. Who was Pres­i­dent Kennedy? What do fam­i­lies mean to us? From where did our fore­bears immi­grate? What do these con­nec­tions across oceans and time mean for our world?

Patrick and the President
writ­ten by Ryan Tubridy, illus­trat­ed by P.J. Lynch
Can­dlewick Press, 2017
ISBN 978−0−7636−8949−0, $16.99

The inte­ri­or of Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion in New York City, © Char­lotte Leaper |

Natasha Wing wrote one of my favorite pic­ture book biogra­phies, An Eye for Col­or: the Sto­ry of Josef Albers, so I was excit­ed to learn that she has writ­ten a book about his­toric preser­va­tion, star­ring none oth­er than Jacque­line Kennedy Onassis.

When Jackie Saved Grand CentralAs First Lady of the Unit­ed States for two years, she cap­tured the atten­tion and imag­i­na­tion of every news­pa­per, mag­a­zine, and news­reel in the land. Women adopt­ed her fash­ion sense and hair­style. She did a great deal to restore the grandeur of the White House and would undoubt­ed­ly have done more had she been in res­i­dence there longer.

Return­ing to live in New York City, the city in which she grew up, Mrs. Kennedy learned that Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion was in dan­ger of being altered with a sky­scraper built on its roof!

Like a pow­er­ful loco­mo­tive, Jack­ie led the charge to pre­serve the land­mark she and New York City loved. She joined city lead­ers and found­ed the Com­mit­tee to Save Grand Cen­tral. She spoke at press con­fer­ences and made headlines.

She inspired cit­i­zens to donate mon­ey. When peo­ple across the Unit­ed States saw their fash­ion­able for­mer First Lady cham­pi­oning her cause, New York City’s fight became Amer­i­ca’s fight.”

In oth­er words, only Jacque­line Kennedy could pro­mote a cause in a way that result­ed in the Nation­al His­toric Preser­va­tion Act of 1966, under which Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion could find the pro­tec­tion it need­ed to be restored to its for­mer grandeur. 

The text is writ­ten with such clar­i­ty and verve that the read­er will want to look for an his­toric build­ing of their own to save! An exten­sive author’s note pro­vides more infor­ma­tion that will prompt some chil­dren to adopt this as a cause of their own.

The illus­tra­tions by Alexan­dra Boiger are ener­getic and whim­si­cal, all the while using col­or to sub­tly empha­size parts of the sto­ry. In “A Note from the Illus­tra­tor,” you’ll find much to dis­cuss about the col­ors she uses while you pore back over the book to find examples.

For a class­room, this is a ter­rif­ic way to begin talk­ing about the build­ings we see every day, why they are impor­tant to a com­mu­ni­ty, and what they mean for our future.

When Jack­ie Saved Grand Central: 
The True Sto­ry of Jacque­line Kennedy’s Fight for an Amer­i­can Icon

writ­ten by Natasha Wing, illus­trat­ed by Alexan­dra Boiger
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2017

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