Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 2016
With presidential primaries and caucusus underway, and all the accompanying hoopla, it is difficult to not have the presidency on our minds. As U.S. Presidents go, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (FDR) terms (all four of them) were dramatic and noteworthy for many reasons and Linda Crotta Brennan’s book sets them out in straightforward accessible language that tells the story, warts and all.
Starting with the first chapter, we get an idea of FDR’s privilege and wealth, along with a little history of the Roosevelt family. As we move through the chapters, we learn about FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt’s marriage, children, FDR’s polio, and his life in public service. Brennan does not gloss over the less flattering elements of FDR’s life, rather she explains his infidelities, events like the decision to create internment camps and not accept Jewish refugees during WWII, as less than great decisions made in the context of their time. We also learn a bit about Eleanor’s roll in FDR’s success and how she became his eyes and ears through her travels around the nation and the world. Eleanor had her husband’s ear and a significant amount of influence; FDR’s presidency may have looked different, and may not have happened at all, if not for Eleanor.
Even with his flaws, this book leaves no doubt that FDR was the right president for his time. We learn that within the first 100 days of his presidency he was drafting, and Congress was passing, legislation to start pulling the United States out of the Great Depression. And it is hard to imagine anyone who would have worked better with Churchill and Stalin to win WWII. It would have been interesting to get more information about the inspiration that led to the creation of his programs like the CCC, the WPA, and the TVA. Other programs, like FDIC insured banks, Social Security, and the GI Bill, which are still important in the American landscape, were also creations of Roosevelt and his administration. Although it seems as though they’ve always been around, they’ve only existed for about 80 years.
A top-notch informational text for secondary students, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidency moves through the events of FDR’s life with accessible language and a balanced approach. The content includes a helpful timeline, source notes, glossary, bibliography, and resources for further information. It is also loaded with photographs from FDR’s life and presidency. Speaking of photographs, the stress of serving as president during some of the most trying years in U.S. history is evident when comparing the portraits of Roosevelt at the beginning and end of this book.
Other books in the Presidential Powerhouses series: George Washington’s Presidency, James Madison’s Presidency, and John F. Kennedy’s Presidency.
Dewey: 793.917 Interest Level: YA
Reviews: School Library Journal
Middle school readers might like: The Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt: Confronting the Great Depression and WWII by Don Nardo.
Elementary readers might like: Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Leader in Troubled Times from Time for Kids Biographies.
Fiction pairing: The Not-$o-Great Depression: In which the Economy Crashes, My Sister’s Plans are Ruined, My Mom Goes Broke, My Dad Grows Vegetables, and I Do Not Get a Hamster by Amy Goldman Koss.
On the Web:
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum with digitized collections, speeches online, video, curriculum guides, and more at http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/ .
The White House website includes short biographies of the presidents and first ladies, an interactive tour of the White House, information on the three branches of government, and much more at https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/franklindroosevelt.
Video: FDR on PBS’s American Experience online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/fdr/.