It may be that I have no sense of humor, but I have nothing positive to say about this book for kids about William Howard Taft, which purports to be about the 27th President of the United States, who also was the only president also to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But all this book tells you about Taft is that he was fat. And then it proceeds to make fun of him, portraying him as ridiculous, repulsive, and feckless.
The illustrations by Chris Van Dusen are bound to make children laugh, which is also unfortunate, since they all show a vastly obese man in a bathtub with rolls of fat hanging over the side, who can’t get out, despite the efforts of many different people to help him.
In contradistinction to the man presented in this book, Taft was a talented man who had a number of accomplishments before, during, and after his presidency. He was Solicitor General of the United States, Governor-General of the Philippines, and under his good friend President Theodore Roosevelt he served as Secretary of War. He was also Roosevelt’s handpicked presidential successor.
As President, Taft continued Roosevelt’s trust-busting reforms and made an effort to help African Americans and unskilled laborers. He reorganized the State Department and instituted the program, still used today, of “Dollar Diplomacy.”
Upon leaving the White House in 1913, Taft taught at Yale Law School, worked to oppose prohibition, and advocated world peace, ultimately founding the League to Enforce Peace. From 1921 to 1930 he served on the Supreme Court.
Not one of these accomplishments are presented in this book. As far as any kid reading this will know, the only thing Taft was memorable for was for being fat, which equals, in this book, laughable and repulsive.
Evaluation: Given the one-dimensional and unfair presentation of President Taft, as well as the problem children have in school with acceptance, bullying, cruelty, and the rest, I find this book reprehensible.
Published by Candlewick Press, 2014