Illustrations from So You Want to Be President, courtesy of Penguin Young Readers Group


by Larry Swindell

Did you know that George Washington, our nation’s first president, was a Captain in the British Army before organizing and taking command of the Revolutionary (dissident) Army? Did you know John Quincy Adams was a champion swimmer? These are just two fun facts about some of our presidents. With Presidents’ Day upon us, we thought it would be fun to put together a match-up quiz. Sit down together as a family, and see how many you get right.



1. Who was a King before he was a president ? 
2. Which president died in office after serving only one month?
3. Who was the oldest man to be inaugurated as president?
4. Who is the first African American president in our history?
5. Which two presidents died on the same exact day – July 4, 1826 – which was also the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence?       
6. Who was our largest (in weight) president?
7. Who was our smallest (in weight) president?
8. Which president returned to Congress when he was not re-elected to the highest office in the land?
9. Who was the first chief executive born in the United States of America?
10. Who was the first president to resign the office?
11. Which was our only “bachelor” president?
12. Which president was considered an “unofficial” champion wrestler in his home state?
13. Which president won a Pulitzer Prize?
14. Who had more children than any other president?
15. Who owned more slaves that anyone else in the Commonwealth of Virginia?
16. Which future president was on the losing Democratic ticket as vice-president in the 1920 presidential election?



a. George Washington (first)
b. John Adams (second)
c. Thomas Jefferson (third)
d. James Madison (fourth)
e. John Quincy Adams (sixth)
f. Martin Van Buren (eighth)
g. William Henry Harrison (ninth)
h. John Tyler (10th)
i. James Buchanan (15th)
j. Abraham Lincoln (16th)
k. William Howard Taft (27th)
l. Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd)
m. John Kennedy (35th)
n. Richard Nixon (37th)
o. Gerald Ford (38th)
p. Ronald Reagan (40th)
q. Barack Obama (44th)


(Answers appear below our President's Day book reviews)


Hail to Our Chiefs: Two new books for Presidents’ Day


So You Want to Be President
by Judith St. George and David Small
(Philomel, ages 5 and up, $17.99)

Picture books about presidents are bountiful, but this one won the 2000 Caldecott Medal for its lively illustrations and easily stands tall among the rest. So You Want to Be President has just been revised to include our current president, Barack Obama, seen here with a big grin on his face as he takes a giant step into a fancy room occupied by former presidents.
Judith St. George’s lively text is packed with fascinating facts about our chief executives (Andrew Johnson couldn’t read until he was 14 and didn’t write until after his marriage! Benjamin Harrison had 11 brothers and sisters! Warren Harding was handsome, but we learn that he was hardly an “honest Abe”). St. George’s meaty details make for a treasure alone, but David Small’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations live up to the word “brilliant.” They’re packed with historic details as well as wonderful humor and mischief.


Looking at Lincoln
by Maira Kalman
(Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, ages 5-8, $17.99)

Who loved Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” opera, and gobbling up apples and his wife’s vanilla cake? But who also sometimes forgot to eat because he was too busy thinking, or stuffing notes (about things to think about later) into his tall hat? Abraham Lincoln, of course! Did you also know that at age 10 young Abe was kicked in the head by either a horse or mule and for a short time was presumed dead?
Maira Kalman’s new Looking at Lincoln brings our 16th president to life in a very personal way.  The gouache illustrations are vibrant and quirky, and seem to “speak” directly to today’s youngster who wants to be wowed. This effort is a win-win: You’ll learn a lot while having a great time the whole while.

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