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Archive for Sunday, October 19, 2008

Books give kids insights about election process

October 19, 2008

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Candidates in this year's election might think they're the target of nasty tactics.

But so far they haven't seen anything quite like the truly dirty trick played on Richard Nixon when he was running for re-election as vice president in 1956.

That year the Republican convention took place in San Francisco. As the city's garbage trucks passed the convention center, they sported huge signs posted by Democrats that said "Dump Nixon."

That story is one of many in a lively, fact-filled book that explores campaigns, the voting process and presidential candidates.

"See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House," by Susan E. Goodman, is one of three new books that might help young people make sense of this month's second-biggest new story.

In her introduction, Goodman shows she knows what kids care about.

"Important things happen in the fall. Going back to school. The World Series. Halloween!

"It's also election time."

Some kids care about politics, too, especially a presidential election as exciting as this one. Goodman tells such fun stories that she might hook the less interested.

She covers the Electoral College, political parties, campaign gimmicks, inauguration celebrations and the media. Within each subject, she grabs pertinent, interesting examples from various historical periods.

Readers will learn that, in "the olden days," it took weeks for news of who'd won an election to reach all parts of the country. And they'll find out that President Clinton had 14 inaugural balls - and danced at each one.

Cartoon-style illustrations by Elwood H. Smith add to the kid-friendliness.

At the end, the book includes pictures of each president, a glossary, resources and an index.

"Vote!" by Eileen Christelow, first published in 2003, is an updated version of a great primer on elections.

The story follows a mayoral election with the mom of the main character, Angela, as a candidate. In lively prose, with funny subplots, Angela and her two dogs take the reader through the campaign, including rallies, fundraisers, debates and a recount.

The illustrations, in comic-book format with dialogue balloons, are fun.

At the beginning and end of the book, Christelow packs in facts and resources, including Web sites, a voting rights timeline, a coin-rubbing activity and more.

"Declare Yourself: Speak. Connect. Act. Vote: More than 50 Celebrated Americans Tell You Why," is a book for jaded 18-year-olds who are on the fence about voting in November.

It's also a good one to give 14-year-olds so they don't become jaded 18-year-olds.

The book from Declare Yourself, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded by television's Norman Lear, is a collection of essays by celebrities, athletes, writers, politicians and others chosen for their potential pull with young people.

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