YA – Conspiracy: Nixon, Watergate, and Democracy’s Defenders

Pearson, P. O’Connell. Conspiracy: Nixon, Watergate, and Democracy’s Defenders. Simon & Schuster, 2020. 978-1-534-48003-2. 277 p. $17.99. Grades 7-12. 

The Watergate scandal and resignation of President Nixon was a seminal moment in 20th century American History. Conspiracy relates information about the Watergate events and personalities in an accessible and straightforward manner that is highly readable. The book is arranged chronologically, starting with the Watergate break-in on June 17, 1972. Subsequent chapters follow the unfolding events and investigative process that ultimately revealed numerous abuses of power carried out by the Nixon administration. A major focus of the title is examining the role of Watergate heroes, individuals like reporters, judges, lawyers, elected officials, and average Americans, who worked to reveal the truth about Watergate-related criminal activity and cover-up attempts and to defend the rule of law. Key legal terms and governmental concepts/procedures are defined within the text. Back matter includes a bibliography, timeline of events, and cast of characters.

THOUGHTS: The Watergate scandal unfolded over a period of years and ultimately encompassed not only the Watergate break-in, but numerous crimes. Therefore, it can be a complex topic to explore and explain. Pearson does an admirable job in presenting these concepts in an accessible manner that will enable secondary students to gain a full understanding of the events and key players. Student researchers will find this book to be an invaluable resource, and it will also be of interest to history fans.

973.924 American History          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents

Messner, Kate, and Adam Rex. The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents. Chronicle Books, 2020. 978-1-452-17488-4. 42 p. $18.99. Grades 3-6.

Now that one contentious election is over, perhaps it is time to look ahead even further to The Next President. Kate Messner takes a unique look at this esteemed position by focusing less on politics and more on the timeline of where upcoming presidents were at key years through our history. Starting with 1789 and president #1, she states that there were already 9 future presidents alive; some were in politics, or law, and a few were just youth who didn’t yet know their future careers. Other benchmark years of 1841, 1897, and 1961 show a similar pattern. There are text boxes briefly highlighting a fact for each president at these moments, and Adam Rex does his splendid best with illustrations realistic and humorous to capture the historical moments. Several snapshot moments break up the narrative a bit and focus in on one particular story, such as presidential pets or Teddy Roosevelt’s adventures. The end result is an inspiring realization that the youth of today are likely among the future leaders of tomorrow, and they may be “listening, learning, and getting ready to lead” our country into a new, changing world.

THOUGHTS: Extra facts in the notes highlight the past presidents’ birthplaces, the requirements to take office, and the changing face of the office as previous barriers are broken for women and people of color. This was before the election, but makes a great discussion point about the potential of the office beyond party affiliation and within the grasp of elementary students. Could easily be paired with So You Want To Be President by Judith St. George, and then some online database sites for further inquiry. Highly recommended.

973 American History    Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

MG – Close Calls: How Eleven US Presidents Escaped from the Brink of Death

Spradlin, Michael P. Close Calls: How Eleven US Presidents Escaped from the Brink of Death. Bloomsbury, 2020. 978-1-5476-0023-6. 116 p. $18.99. Grades 5-8.

While many authors have told the stories of the untimely deaths of American Presidents, author Michael Spradlin has chosen to focus on the lesser known tales of Presidents who narrowly escaped death during their lifetimes in Close Calls. Each action-packed chapter focuses on an event when a President (or future President) nearly lost his life. Some examples of near misses include: George H.W. Bush being shot down and nearly captured during WWII, Andrew Jackson avoiding death when both(!) pistols an assassin shot at him misfired, and Theodore Roosevelt narrowly escaping death when an assassin shot him, only to have the bullet stopped by a folded speech Roosevelt was carrying. The text is supplemented by the inclusion of sidebars explaining historical events of the time(s) or biographical sketches of persons involved in the story. 

THOUGHTS: This engaging title is sure to be a hit with biography and history readers, as well as readers who enjoy action-packed, adventure-type stories. Highly recommended.

973 American History            Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD