Monday, December 17, 2007

Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book Nomination: Make Your Mark, Franklin Roosevelt

Title: Make Your Mark, Franklin Roosevelt
Author: Judith St. George
Illustrator: Britt Spencer
Publisher: Philomel Books, New York
Source of book: library copy

It would be very difficult to write a boring biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His struggle with polio, the despair of the Depression, the unprecedented role created by his wife, Eleanor, as the First Lady, the hope of the New Deal, the epic struggle of World War II, and the shock and helplessness felt by the nation at his death make for incredible reading.

Of course, there's also the more controversial aspects of FDR. The internment camps of the Japanese Americans on the West Coast. His many enemies and detractors. His relationship with Lucy Mercer.

You won't find much of this in Make Your Mark, Franklin Roosevelt. What you will find is an engaging look at the childhood of the 32nd president of the United States. In fact, the book takes a very specific look at one aspect of FDR's life-his boarding school experience. As a young boy, Franklin traveled widely and was tutored at home, as were many wealthy children at the time. However, he was sent to boarding school, where he was deeply influenced by the headmaster, Rev. Endicott Peabody. Most boys started at Groton when they were 12; Franklin was 14 when he began classes.

Franklin was teased because of his European manners and because he truly enjoyed his classes. Franklin became involved with sports, which helped his profile.

Rev. Peabody frequently invited speakers to the campus-reformers and other important personage, such as Booker T. Washington. One day, Franklin's fifth cousin, Theodore Roosevelt (NYC police commissioner at the time).

We follow Franklin's scarlet fever illness, the election of Theodore Roosevelt to the New York governorship, and his graduation.

Through droll illustrations and kid-friendly text, Judith St. George tells this slice of FDR's life with ease and affection. A short afterword and bibliography follow the text. While not a comprehensive biography, this is a fun look at the young adulthood of a remarkable man.

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