Friday, December 30, 2011

Poetry Friday -- Presidential Edition

The President's Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems about the Presidents
by Susan Katz
illustrated by Robert Neubecker
Clarion Books, on shelves February 8, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

Since 2012 will be a presidential election year, it seems appropriate to start brushing up on our presidential facts and trivia sooner, rather than later.

In this book, every president gets a poem based on sometimes a little-known and sometimes a well-known fact about his presidency. The fact is elaborated briefly at the bottom of the page. There is more information about each president in the back of the book, but it is as bite-sized and kid-friendly as each president's page -- you get dates of the term(s) served, birth/death dates, a quote, the president's nickname, and that president's "first."

I love the poems in this book. Here's an example that highlights one of the most infamous of the eight Ohio Presidents:

The Long and Short of It
(William Henry Harrison, 1841)

Without a hat or gloves or overcoat,
William Henry Harrison stood in driving rain
on the Capitol's east steps to declaim to a crowd
the longest, most meandering inaugural address
of any president in history, 3800 words or so,
that took almost two hours to deliver. That was long.

was only
one month.


William Henry Harrison's election campaign was longer than his presidency. He caught a cold at his inauguration and a month later died of pneumonia.

© Susan Katz, 2012

So, yes, I love the poems, but I also love how the facts at the bottom of each page elaborate or illuminate the poem in some way.

And if there isn't already enough to love about this book, I can't wait to read through the presidential notes and quotes with my students to give them an interesting snapshot history of the United States. Here are a few examples that stopped me in my tracks and made me think:

  • We were 8 presidents in before we had the first president born an American citizen. (Martin Van Buren)
  • Jimmy Carter, president number 39, was the first president born in a hospital. (how could that BE?)
  • It took 16 presidents before we had one who had been born outside the original thirteen colonies. (Abe Lincoln)
  • And president #34, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was the first president of all fifty states.

Julie Larios has the Poetry Friday roundup today at The Drift Record. Seems she has politics on her mind, too!


  1. Thanks much for sharing about this book, Mary Lee. The snippets you shared are wonderful & will make fine reading this coming political year to many ages. I think it might also be used for good examples of the subtle way poetry can be used to tell a story, or at least your example of Harrison was like that. It'll be an interesting year!

  2. Maybe your use of the word "factoid" is inaccurate used here. It is opposite of "fact".
    Factoid: A factoid is a questionable or spurious—unverified, incorrect, or fabricated—statement presented as a fact, but with no veracity.
    Your first example is a "fact", not a "factoid".

  3. Dear Random Ramblings, I stand corrected. I wish there were a word that means mini-fact or factette or factini. But I guess I'll just resort to using plain old unarguable FACT.

  4. Hee--I shall go forth in 2012 determined to popularize the use of "factini!"

    Sometimes books come along that make me wish I taught older children, and this is one. You and Susan Katz have also got me thinking about the word "president" and what it actually means. That's kindergarten stuff, anyway. Lucky you, to get your hands on books like this ahead of time!

  5. Factini
    I like it:-)

  6. Oh, how did I miss this post?! I'm excited to get this - my Henry will love it. Thank you, once more, for helping me help the economy! xo, a.


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