Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Children's Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination - Bryan Young

Summary: Over the course of American history, there have been only four presidents who have been forced to sacrifice their lives for their country at the hands of an assassin. These great men have not been forgotten, and their stories are told here in fascinating detail for history lovers of all ages. 

But those four presidents are not the only ones who have been close to death in the line of duty to the American people. This book, A Children’s Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination, delves into all of the major assassination attempts throughout the history of the United States, in vivid detail, illustrated by Erin Kubinek. (Summary and image from goodreads.com.  I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

Review:  Yes, you read that correctly.  I reviewed a children's book about presidential assassination.  And it. Is. AWESOME!  I felt a little odd laughing at Young's recounting of some of the attempted assassinations, but frankly, they were pretty funny.  Imagining President Jackson beating his would-be assassin into submission with a cane when the attempt failed? Tell me you wouldn't laugh.

This is truly an incredible book.  Stemming from his own daughter's interest in why someone would do something so unthinkable, Young sets out to explain in simple, understandable, intelligent terms why presidents have been triggered in the past, why their assailants were motivated, and how the nation reacted every time.  He includes a nod to the Secret Service and its history, but the most enchanting part of the book for me was the illustrations his daughter supplied him with, either presidential portraits or her rendition of the assassination scene.  

Granted, this is a dark topic.  But it's frustrating for intelligent kids who truly want to learn our nation's history to only be fed crumbs.  Young realizes this and assumes that the readers of his book are smart enough to handle the material.  I found myself learning things about the presidents who had been targeted -- for example, I didn't know that Jackson was the only president to PAY OFF the national debt.  Sure, he was a horrible man, but seriously.  That's impressive.  But as someone who loves history, and who considers myself fairly well-versed in American history, I loved learning more about the topic than I had intended.  

Included in the book are any known attempts at assassination, but covered in more detail than any APUSH class would give you.  I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts when Young was interviewed.  His recounting of Roosevelt's survival had me laughing so hard, I came home and immediately sought out the book.  Yes, assassination is terrible and unthinkable, but the ways these men survived them?  Everyone should know the bravery of these men.

Rating: Five enthusiastic stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  While the subject matter is handled with the utmost care, this is a book about assassination.  Young doesn't get overly graphic, but keep in mind the subject material.  Personally, I handed it right to my nearly-ten-year-old ... a fellow history buff.

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