Election by Dan Gutman

Today, I have a little something different for your reading enjoyment– a non-fiction book! Remember that a fiction book is not real, so a non-fiction book is NOT not real.  In other words, it’s true stuff: facts, or history, or biographies.  Because we are in an election year, it’s a good idea to know how these things work.  (If you were in my class as a third grader, you’ll remember how we watched Barack Obama officially take office on Inauguration Day! That was cool!)

I was able to preview a copy of Dan Gutman’s new book Election! this summer.  It will be available to you at the end of August, in just a few weeks.  I  know that middle school readers will like this book because it is written in question/answer format, instead of pages of paragraphs.  It definitely makes reading non-fiction feel easier to understand, and Mr. Gutman has made sure that his answers are just the right length, without getting all crazy and technical.  If one answer leads you to another question, you’ll find that he has almost read your mind because your new question will follow along in just the right order as you are thinking it!

Election! covers some of the history of how we ended up with a president instead of a king (or a pharaoh or emperor), how the government of the United States is set up, and what the Constitution is all about.  He tells us what kind of powers the president has in ruling our country and why he can’t just do whatever he want, whenever he wants.  There are some interesting fun facts about various past presidents, too.  It’s interesting to see how the voting process has changed over time and who can or cannot vote today.  Every answer is explained with a good sense of humor; in fact, when things are about to become complicated, the author advises, “You’d better sit down for this.  Lock yourself in a room and don’t do any texting for a few minutes.”  It’s like he knows you!

We The People (that’s a Constitution joke for you!) are constantly bombarded with information, especially if you ever go online or watch TV.  Sometimes it is hard to know what is real these days.  As we are coming up onto Election Day, which will be in November, you will start seeing more and more commercials that suggest you vote for a particular candidate.  Sometimes those commercials are not very nice.  The part of the book that I liked best, reminds the reader to stop and think before making any decisions.  Voting is a big privilege and responsibility, so we adults need to do our best to find out as much information as possible ahead of time.  We also need to consider what is being told to us and who is telling it, but also what is NOT being told in those commercials and advertisements. (Think about those times when you have to tell your parents something, and you don’t exactly lie, but you don’t tell the whole truth either.  It’s kind of like that.)  Even though you may say, “I”m just a kid!” you can start to practice these evaluation skills now, too.

Voters have to pay attention and stay informed.  They should read newspapers and news magazines.  They should find out how the candidates stand on each issue.  They should be looking at what each candidate has done in other elective offices they held….Always remember that a candidate is trying to show himself in the best possible way.  You cannot make a fair evaluation just by watching TV commercials.

This book includes a nice glossary of election vocabulary in case you get stuck while reading, but also to make yourself sound like an expert at the dinner table or in social studies class.  At the very end of the book, there is a list of all of the presidents’ stats for their lives and the years when they served as the POTUS.  (That’s another term you may hear during the elections.  Can you guess what it stands for?*)

I really enjoyed this book.  It flowed along nicely from question to question and it was definitely written at the middle school level.  Some readers might like to keep a dictionary nearby, or a computer.  I know I looked up a few historical figures who were named in this book to search for more information, just because their stories sounded interesting! This book was written fairly and did not seem to take any political sides (as grownups sometimes do when they are passionate about an issue.)  The author’s attitude is clearly neutral, as stated below:

Remember, the election is not a popularity contest.  We are trying to choose the best person to lead our country for the next four years.

^^^See what I did there?  I evaluated the author’s message in this book and decided it was a good one.  You should always do the same when you read.  I recommend this book for kids who like to read non-fiction books, kids who like to learn about history, kids who like collecting “fun facts”, and anyone who could use a quick brush-up on how the US government works.

*POTUS= President of the United States.  Ah ha! I knew you could figure it out!