This will be a two part review, reviewing the book for its intended audience of older children and younger teens, and as an adult and critical reader (which I don't do as often as I hope).
Review for children: 5 Stars
This book was not written at the right time; I desperately wish I'd been able to read this when I was young. A quick, fun read that packs its facts in quirky illustrations and great writing, the sections can be read together or in bits and pieces, as you wish. In depth childhood stories of specific Presidents are mixed with short tid-bits on several bound together under titles such as "Prankster-in-Chief," "Hardly Working," and "Presidential Report Cards." Most of the Presidents covered in depth are ones school children would and should be familiar with while each one get s a chance to shine, if no where else, then in 44 Facts About 44 Presidents. Lots of fun and a great choice to get children to eat their history without realizing it.
Critical Review: 3 and a bit Stars
Now let me put my historian and reader hats one. What I said above is true...there is a but coming though.
First, once again the modern and well known Presidents are covered in depth while lesser known men are given two or three lines. I understand the reasons for doing this - the readers probably already know them, important in history, the children might even remember them (more about this later), etc. - however, part of the continued problem is that no one breaks from this. No one takes the chance. To be fair, they did this to a degree, telling stories about Grant, Nixon, Jackson, and Hoover. These are less likely to be known, in my experience at least. I just wish the Adams, Jefferson, Garfield, Cleveland, etc. could have gotten a chance to shine.
Second, most of them that got their own section were modern Presidents, Nixon, Carter, Clinton, Obama, Ford, Reagan, etc. with two rather glaring exceptions - the two Bush Presidents. Again, being fair, they do get very decent, even slightly above, coverage in the tid-bits sections but neither one gets a section of their own. As some of the current readers might remember the later years of the son's presidency, it is an...interesting omission.
Third, as I am not conversant on the facts for many of the sections, I am not able to completely state unequivocally where the information for these stories came from. Parts of the Grant, TR, Washington, FDR, Kennedy, and Lincoln stories were known to me and were accurate as far as I could tell. Some of the tid-bits were known to me as well. As LL and I were watching Ken Burns' The Roosevelts while I read this, we looked up TR's nickname Teedie and found out it was true. So an a-okay there. I was particularly surprised by Jackson's childhood, his brother shot by the British commander Tarleton's men (you'd know him as the guy the villain from The Patriot was based off of), and he and his other brother enlisted, were captured by Tarleton's men and imprisoned. Their mother got them out but they were barely alive and Andrew's brother didn't survive. Good grief, apparently the man never had a boring life. I just wish there would have been something after each major section covering their sources.
All of this is not to deride the book; it surprised me by how well put together and fun it was. I was very pleasantly pleased when I found age-appropriate further reading for each of the detailed Presidents. I can wish they'd listed ones for each of the Presidents, but this was a wonderful idea and the few I know of were good ones. These are also good resources for teacher and parents.
The illustrations were young and fun and yet detailed and you can easily tell who the child is suppose to be. They are interspersed nicely among the text and really add to the whole experience.
I suppose, in the end and for me, this is a four star book with caveats. It was very good; I can simply see where it could have been better. But I know I'll read this again and hope my library and others have it. I can think of many children who would enjoy this. Even ones who don't particularly care about history or presidents.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher; the opinions are my own.