Recently I’ve become quite the Presidential buff.
As much as I would love to impress you with an exhaustive list of critically acclaimed history books I’ve memorized while polishing the White House silver, I may as well confess my newfound obsession is all about discovering the “penchants and peccadilloes of the presidents.”
Feed me odd, quirky, funny, charming or cringe-worthy “factini” for breakfast and I’m a happy camper. (The term,”factini,” was cleverly coined by Mary Lee after posting her review at A Year of Reading.)
My appetite for fascinating factini knows no bounds. I grew up thinking our Presidents were boring white men in breeches who never smiled. Now, thanks to Susan Katz’s brand new poetry collection, I’ve discovered the naked truth: one of them (John Quincy Adams) didn’t wear breeches (or anything else) while swimming in the Potomac, several of them gave such long or confusing blabby speeches they probably didn’t have time to smile (Clinton, Harrison, Harding), and it couldn’t possibly have been the least bit boring to get stuck in a bathtub (Taft).
I live for this stuff! Thought I’d share three poems to celebrate President’s Day. It was hard choosing which ones, but in the end, I went with Madison (I have a thing for small men), Jefferson (my favorite gourmand from Virginia), and Bush (not the broccoli hater but the tongue tier). Adjust your bibs and enjoy the feast!
A PRESIDENTIAL MORSEL
(James Madison, 1809-17)
with lanky legs
and great strides.
heavy as boulders
and thick as trees.
was a twig.
owned fierce pets
like lions, alligators,
tigers, and bears.
owned a parrot.
Had his pet
and quick to attack,
might have become
the First Snack.
(Thomas Jefferson, 1801-9)
Thomas Jefferson designed
a rope apparatus that shifted his bed
up to the ceiling
or down to the floor;
a two-faced clock that he could see
inside the house
or outside the house;
a swivel chair so he could swirl
to his right
or to his left;
a dumbwaiter that hauled his drinks
down to the cellar
or back upstairs;
a door on a pivot that he could swing
open to the dining room
or open to the passage;
a revolving stand so he could read
at one time.
A cleverer man you couldn’t find,
but somewhat unable
to make up his mind.
(George W. Bush, 2001-9)
George W. Bush had trouble
with words, using
“terriers” for “barriers,” “bariff” for “tariff,”
“plowed” for “proud.”
Meaning to say “dreams take wing,”
he said, “wings take dream.”
He opposed all “federal cufflinks”
(whatever that might mean).
He spoke of “he and her”
instead of “he and she”
and talked about
a “foreign-handed” foreign policy.
And when he tried to say things once,
they often came out double;
his syllables would cluster
to form a syllabubble.
Some folks found this amusing,
but that seems so unfair!
If he hadn’t been the president,
who would ever care?
Attaining highest office
may perhaps be overrated,
for a president’s so easily
Ha! There’s nothing like a Bushism to put things into perspective, I love Katz’s take on Jefferson’s fabulous inventions (she’s right!), and isn’t Madison just a bit more endearing now?
Young readers will eat up all 43 poems; Katz knows just what kind of juicy facts they’d find fascinating (FDR’s dog, Truman’s ghosts, Buchanan’s cocked head). Each poem gets its own little “factini” infobit, and there’s a great list of Presidential Notes and Quotes in the back, including all their nicknames and “firsts.” Give me foibles and fancies any day; I love knowing my presidents were only human, and now some of the more obscure ones emerge with discernible personalities. Neubecker’s hilarious, rollicking illustrations amplify the poems and round out the profiles perfectly. Highly recommend this book for all ages!
THE PRESIDENT’S STUCK IN THE BATHTUB: Poems About the Presidents by Susan Katz
illustrated by Robert Neubecker
published by Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
Poetry for ages 6+, 64 pp.
On shelves now!
The always lovely and gracious Myra Garces-Bacsal is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at Gathering Books. Check out the full menu of poems and reviews being shared around the blogosphere and enjoy the holiday weekend!
HAPPY PRESIDENT’S DAY, EVERYONE!
(Yes, George W. Bush was there, but we refused to pose with him.)
*Spreads posted by permission, text copyright © 2012 Susan Katz, illustrations © 2012 Robert Neubecker, published by Clarion Books. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.