I must confess that Teddy Roosevelt is not one of my favorite presidents, but I love Dan Gutman’s writing, and the cover drew me in. And… I’m glad I read it. This is a fantastic book for curious children (or kids working on research papers who don’t like traditional nonfiction books).
The story opens with Paige and her little brother, Turner. Turner wants to talk about kitty litter, but Paige wants to talk about famous people. Paige wins, and we learn all about Teddy Roosevelt (although we do learn what Turner wanted to share about kitty litter in the end).
Gutman presents the “Stuff your teacher wants you to know,” which is perfect! That is exactly the information kids are looking for, but Gutman doesn’t end there. Now comes all the good parts. Like… How Roosevelt hated the name Teddy, family history (and the conflict of having his mother support the Confederacy), his siblings, and how Roosevelt and his brother, Elliott (Elenor Roosevelt’s father), were in a photograph taken at Lincon’s funeral.
The journey through Roosevelt’s life continues and we learn how interested he was in taxidermy, loved to read, and was very smart. We start seeing some of the more… problematic, if you will, areas of his life when he basically stalks Alice Hathaway Lee until she agrees to marry him.
After discussing his adult life, the presidency, his hunting trips, and all the “good” things Roosevelt accomplished, Gutman didn’t stop (where many books would have). Instead, Paige points out that Roosevelt had another side that also needs to be discussed (BRAVO!). Roosevelt didn’t believe in civil rights, referred to Native Americans as “savages,” stole Native American land to form the National Parks, killing 512 animals on their African safari for the joy of the hunt, and his views on women.
History isn’t filled with angels and demons… it’s filled with people who have more than one side. Gutman took the time to present the positives and negatives, which makes this book an instant winner. I highly recommend this book for every school library, classroom, and children’s library.