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Madam President


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About the Author

Lane Smith is a Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator for The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. His latest book, John, Paul, George & Ben, received countless honors, including three starred reviews, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and Child Magazine and Parenting Magazine Best Book of the Year.
Lane's collaborations with Jon Scieszka include the seminal children's book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, as well as Math Curse, Science Verse, and many more. Lane lives in Connecticut.


Gr 1-4-Lane Smith's unique take on the presidency (Hyperion, 2008) will have children giggling and adults grinning. Told in the first person in a child's voice, the story follows a young girl through a typical day, viewed through presidential lenses. The pony-tailed, pant-suited heroine goes to a state funeral (a pet burial), selects her cabinet from her toy cabinet (Mr. Potato Head is Secretary of Agriculture), kisses babies, and hands out small flags with zeal. She uses her veto power on the tuna casserole at the school cafeteria, and re-images her oral report as a news conference. She also exercises tact and diplomacy, works for world peace on a very local scale, and eventually has to deal with a disaster zone (her bedroom). This humorous look at presidential duties, reduced to kid-size, features Smith's illustrations which have been cleverly animated, with lots of white space. Bouncy patriotic music abounds. Our candidate even has her own words to "Hail to the Chief," and viewers can sing along. Following the story is an interview with the author who explains the story's evolution, gives insight into story details, provides some personal background information, and generally displays the sense of humor that radiates through his books. This high-quality production will be particularly useful as we head toward the presidential election in November.-Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Smith, who slyly recast U.S. history in John, Paul, George and Ben, introduces a zealous, freckled girl with presidential aspirations. Refreshingly, Katy skips the hand-wringing and never questions whether a girl could become commander-in-chief-instead, she behaves as if she is president already, fulfilling official duties at home and in school. Attired in a dark pantsuit, she brashly inserts herself in a Boy Scout "photo op," attends a pet frog's "state funeral" and treats an oral report as a press conference: "No comment. I'll get back to you on that." In mixed-media sequences with emphatic type, Smith mingles earnest words with visual jokes, such as the trail of small American flags Katy leaves in her wake. He depicts the heroine wielding the veto (the cafeteria's tuna casserole gets a nay) and, in florid script, crafts unofficial "Hail to the Chief" lyrics praising "the most awesome one of all" and "her rad administration." At one point, Katy crows in capital letters, "Why, the president is the most important person in the whole wide world!" (Tiny lowercase letters add, "And the most humble.") Smith gazes into the national future and just as ably skewers the pitfalls of political office. PW"
Most kids merely dream what they'll be when they grow up; Smith's heroine Katy lives the fantasy, charging through her day as self-proclaimed President of the United States. Up before seven, she starts off with orders for the staff (concerning breakfast waffles), snags a photo op on the way to school (baffling an unsuspecting Boy Scout troop), negotiates a peace treaty (between a snarling dog and bristling cat), names her Cabinet (Mr. Potato Head is an able Secretary of Agriculture and a see-through anatomical model handles the Interior), and relies on her Secret Service (cat) to protect her from suspicious schoolmates. She wields her veto power in the school cafeteria, obfuscates her oral report with firm repetitions of "No comment," and works her weary way home, only to find that her mother has alerted her to a disaster (in her messy room). Order restored, Katy's pooped by eight and leaves her clown-faced, stuffed vice president (do we detect some social commentary here?) to deal with the Freedonian ambassador. There's a richness to this zany picture book in its respect for big dreams-Katy is clearly inspired by the national heroes from Frederick Douglass to Susan B. Anthony who populate her books and adorn her walls-and in its gentle nose-tweaking of the political milieu-what else would an aspiring woman president wear by a conservative pants suit? Katy is a square-jawed force to be reckoned with, by turns smug, determined, conciliatory, outraged, and sweetly childlike. That her classmates and offstage parents are oblivious to her esteemed official not only heightens the comedy but also underscores how little regard most citizens pay to the Chief Executive once the heat of election time has cooled. This is a must-have title that will unite both sides of the (lunchroom) aisle. BCCB"
A confident girl walks readers through a typical day at home and at school (Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary) as she fantasizes about herself as president. Her first executive order is for waffles. She then negotiates a treaty between a cat and dog and appoints a toy cabinet; Mr. Potato Head is a dapper Secretary of Agriculture. In decisive fonts, the Head of State vetoes tuna casserole and other schoolhouse aberrations. She "leads by example" when it's time to straighten up her bedroom, but wisely delegates an ambassador's visit to the VP as weariness sets in. Smith's understated text is accompanied by clean, cleverly designed compositions. The heroine's trapezoidal head and triangulated body are offset by stylized trees whose leaves are trimmed to float in perfect orbs. In what appears to be mixed media involving digital and hand-painted scenes as well as collage, the artist creates a '60s feel with earth-toned backgrounds that resemble the faux grass wallpaper so evocative of the period. Mid-20th-century games and presidential biographies for children are part of this fearless leader's paraphernalia. As in Smith's other spoofs, this book blends message with medium for maximum delight. Kathleen Krull's A Woman for President (Walker, 2004) and Jarrett Krosoczka's Max for President (Knopf, 2004) offer complementary glimpses at females and the Executive Branch. Hail to the chief! SLJ"
Whether the U.S. gets a woman president is still in doubt, but here a female narrator has already taken the role. In this sly, witty recitation of a president's responsibilities, a pony-tailed girl has the list down pat: give executive orders (to her cat); negotiate treaties (between said cat and dog); kiss babies; and veto, veto veto. There's no story, and the list of responsibilities does grow rather long. But the stretch can be forgiven because it provides more opportunity to enjoy Smith's amazing artwork. Madam President, with her boxy head and triangular body appears against a variety of backgrounds-some plain white, others packed with interesting things-with a disparate uses of materials and images that often give the look of collage. Particularly amusing is the two-page spread showing rows of cabinet secretaries inside a cabinet (e.g., a piggy bank Secretary of the Treasury, a Mr. Potato Head Secretary of the Agriculture). Kudos to Molly Leach, whose design makes everything from the lettering to end pages look fabulous. Although there's some winking at adults, this book is very much for kids, who might even come away having learned a bit about presidential duties. Booklist"
A deadpan text outlines a president's extensive duties, while Madam-a ponytailed girl in a snappy pin-striped pantsuit-trips through an exhausting day, bestowing small American flags as she goes. Smith's illustrations combine cartoonish figures, mod interiors and stylized landscapes a-swirl with fall leaves. A whimsical double-page spread proclaiming "A president must choose a capable cabinet" pairs toys with their official titles: Mr. Potato Head is Secretary of Agriculture, for instance, and a winged unicorn is "Secretary of Fantasy." Such retro elements as a deck of Old Maid cards and a Ruth Buzzi button will tickle adults, as might a Duck Soup derived reference to "[t]he ambassador of Freedonia." Children can squint at the spines of Madam Prez's library (which leans to American history) and spot scores of visuals signaling her obsession (presidential busts, a pet cat doubling as a Secret Service agent). Though the Oval Office here is no more than a messy bedroom, this funny romp lightly delivers a hefty message for today's girls: The White House is yours for the taking. Kirkus"

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