CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 2 . . . .September 15, 2006
Eleanor Roosevelt: An Inspiring Life.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2006.
32 pp., pbk. & cl., $7.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55337-811-3 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55337-778-8 (cl.).
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962-Juvenile literature.
Presidents’ spouses-United States-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by J. Lynn Fraser.
Designed with a keen sense of how images and text work on a page to hold a young reader’s attention, MacLeod’s Eleanor Roosevelt succeeds in making history both personal and interesting. Personal because the young reader is made aware that, while Ms. Roosevelt’s public life was challenging and rewarding, her private life was filled with hurt and disappointment. Later, doctors diagnosed Franklin’s illness as poliomyelitis (polio) a life threatening disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. One might have reservations concerning the references to the extra-marital affairs of Franklin Roosevelt (Ms. Roosevelt’s husband). Some consideration might be taken as to the reaction of young readers to these events in the book.
There are many strengths of this book. One is that the reader learns, in easy to read language, that life is complex. Ms. Roosevelt can teach any reader that both negative and positive events happen in one’s life, and one chooses how to respond to them. Her response was to contribute to society whether it was to help the poor, support American troops during the war or to make a major and historic contribution to the United Nations.
The author gently enables her readers to understand the layering of personal and public events in a person’s life over time and the kind of character that can responses with determination to difficulties and obstacles. Ms. Roosevelt’s sense of humour was one of the ways she responded:
Because Eleanor wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and take action, she had enemies. Some people criticized her opinions, while others made fun of her big teeth and unfashionable clothes. “Every woman in public life needs to develop skin as tough as rhinoceros hide,” was Eleanor’s response.
Readers are made aware that, while Ms. Roosevelt came from a privileged upbringing, her personality, character, intelligence and understanding of human nature and the pragmatics of politics helped her achieve her goals.
The other strength of this book is in its design. The text sits in the middle of the left page with images from both pages supporting the actions and events of the text. To a young reader’s eyes, the photographs no doubt seem antiquated, but the designer has layered them with text on each right hand page. This gives the old photographs ‘movement’ as do the arrows pointing to the photographs and quotes. The large, bold titles and arrows indicating page numbers are nice graphics but not in keeping with the muted colours used throughout the book. Younger readers would better visually stimulated by brighter colours.
The timeline of Ms. Roosevelt’s life, in the back of the book, is a good reading aid. The index is also helpful for this well-researched book. The readers will learn about that time period without having the sense of being ‘taught’ history. References to American landmarks and museums are more relevant to American readers for whom the book seems to be targeted. An opportunity was missed in not citing Web sites for readers to visit.
The references to the Roosevelt’s summer home in New Brunswick would be interesting to Canadian readers. It is unfortunate more Canadian references could not be included in the text, such as Roosevelt’s relationship with Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King and Canada during the Depression and World War One.
I highly recommend this book with the suggestion that teachers consider how to discuss some of the more delicate issues raised in the book.
Located in Toronto, ON, J. Lynn Fraser is a freelance writer and editor whose magazine articles appear in international publications.
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