Reviews for First Mothers

Booklist Reviews 2012 November #1
Colorfully illustrated and surprisingly entertaining, this large-format volume gives the mothers of presidents their due. The presentation spotlights each "first mother" in a half-page, full-page, or double-page presentation combining a paragraph or more of text and at least one illustration. Descriptions of the women run the gamut from doting to disapproving, from supportive to domineering, and from unschooled to highly educated. Though little is known about some presidents' mothers, Gherman brings her many subjects to life with a combination of narrative, description, quotes, and anecdotes. Created with watercolors and colored pencils, Downing's graceful illustrations have an amiable irreverence that suits the tone of the text well. A bibliography is appended, but the book lacks source notes, even for quotes. Still, this lively, attractive volume offers information that young readers are unlikely to find elsewhere. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
This book provides a fascinating perspective on U.S. presidents by focusing on the personalities and influences of their mothers. Each mom has her own section, descriptive epithet (e.g., Barbara Pierce Bush, "The Outspoken Mother"), amusing anecdote, and cartoonlike portrait; sidebars in varying formats contain important dates and facts. Gherman's engaging text offers vivid characterization of these historic women and their powerful sons. Bib.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 August #2
Behind every great man….And behind many of our presidents, there's also an unknown woman. This book sheds light on our leaders' mothers and how their influences possibly shaped the founding dads. If they care, browsers will eke out at least one factoid they never knew about each presidential mom, even famous ones. Some tidbits are intriguing--Nancy Lincoln's prowess as a wrestler, Malvina Arthur's efforts to prove Chester was American-born, and Elizabeth Harrison's warnings to Benjamin to avoid cucumbers. Many share commonalities. While some came from privilege, many raised their (usually) large families more humbly, even in poverty. Many mothers were religious and passed on strict moral values to their progeny, including an abhorrence of social injustice. Some profiles are more detailed than others, perhaps due to spottier information in older historical records. The mothers of the more recent presidents are given slightly fuller portrayals. Occasional captions and cartoon-y speech balloons add supplemental information. Some facts are simplistic, even incorrect, as in the case of Warren Harding, "one of our worst presidents," whose corrupt administration is passed off "because he did not stand up for his ideas." Sadly, there are several instances of disputed or inaccurate dates in various profiles. The watercolor-and–colored-pencil illustrations are bland, with many women looking identical, the passage of time marked only by changes in fashions, hairstyles and "props." There's not much for kids about presidential mothers, and at least this book covers every White House resident so far. (bibliography, author's note) (Nonfiction. 7-11) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 August #4

Franklin Pierce's mother loved to shock her Puritan neighbors in New Hampshire "by wearing bright colors and skirts short enough to show her ankles." William McKinley's mother snatched roses from a train car to carry to her son's inauguration. The mother of five-star general Dwight Eisenhower was a pacifist. These are among the details Gherman (whose earlier children's books include biographies of John Quincy Adams and Jimmy Carter) unearths in this collection of profiles of the mothers of each of the U.S. presidents. Given the range of personalities covered, and presumably the historical resources available, some of the sketches are meatier than others. Among unsurprising accounts of hardworking women devoted to their families, Gherman inserts some lively, little-known zingers: Mary Ball Washington "was not impressed" when her son became the first president, and Nancy Hanks Lincoln "outwrestled many of the men in her town." Craftily mining the personalities of each woman, Downing (The Ice Cream King) contributes watercolor and colored pencil portraits of the mothers on their home turfs, humorously underscoring their many diverse eccentricities. Ages 6-9. Illustrator's agent: Jane Feder. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 October

Gr 2-4--Warren Harding's mother, Phoebe Dickinson Harding, eloped at the age of 20. Abigail Adams, a first mother and a First Lady, never had any formal schooling. Lillian Gordy Carter joined the Peace Corps when she was 68 years old, after her husband had passed away. These tidbits and many more fill the pages of this book. Brief entries highlight interesting, unique details about all 44 of the first mothers, and one stepmother. The items vary in length, with more recent first mothers generally having more in-depth coverage, and each woman is given a descriptive designation based on available information, e.g., "the devoted mother," "the flamboyant mother," etc. All include fun illustrations of the mom-of-note and short statistics such as birth and death dates, as well as the birth date of the future president. Young readers will enjoy perusing this engaging and utterly browsable collection of quick facts about these little-known, but very important women. Pair and share this with Kathryn Davis's Wackiest White House Pets (Scholastic, 2004) and/or Kathleen Krull's Lives of the Presidents (Houghton Harcourt, 2011) to pique interest in this year's presidential election.--Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

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