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Review of The President’s Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems about the Presidents

The President’s Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems about the Presidents
by Susan Katz; illus. by Robert Neubecker
Primary, Intermediate     Clarion     64 pp.
2/12     978-0-547-18221-6     $17.99

In forty-three poems, Katz gives each of our U.S. presidents their due. She concentrates on little-known facts (William McKinley taught his parrot “Yankee Doodle”) but often slips in sly political observations. For example, the poem about President Obama entitled “Yo Mama” reveals many of the names he’s been called but ends with this respectful line: “Not a single snicker could anyone vent / at Obama’s new name, Mr. President.” The poems vary in form. Concrete poetry shaped like a stovepipe hat tells of Abraham Lincoln’s habit of hiding notes in his hat; “Where Didn’t George Washington Sleep?” is a list poem; and Woodrow Wilson’s “Baaad Sheep” is composed of five couplets. Some of the poems aurally echo their content; Rutherford B. Hayes’s “The President’s on the Phone” begs to be read in two voices, and Warren G. Harding’s fondness for alliteration comes out clearly: “Always an admirer of alliteration, / Harding hardly ever halted his habit of haranguing / crowds by constantly copying compatible consonants.” Neubecker’s digitally colored ink drawings brightly decorate each poem, emphasizing the playful tone without deconstructing the verse. Footnoting each poem is a more complete discussion of the highlighted event or character trait. Appended is a list of presidents with their dates in office; birth and death dates; nicknames; a “first” accomplishment of the man or office; and a famous quote.

From the May/June 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Betty Carter

Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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