The answers to the timely questions of the book title are presented in a balanced, objective way, using a conversational but informative style. Eight chapters cover information and issues relating to nominating candidates, how political parties are formed, campaign practices, polls, funding and possible reforms. The book includes the 2000 presidential election (although not its outcome), and Sen. John McCain's proposed campaign finance reforms. The author manages to explain complex ideas (like "soft money") in a straightforward and lively way. Most chapters and sections end with informal questions designed to encourage the reader to interact with the text and form personal opinions. A bibliography, index, glossary, resources list, and many black-and-white and color photos and drawings are included. 2000, Lerner, . Ages 11 up. Reviewer: Gisela Jernigan
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Kowalski's examination of the contemporary American political scene opens with general background about statutory requirements for candidacy and historical information about the development and growth of political parties. The author then discusses how media distortions, the growth of negative advertising, and the explosion of special-interest money in campaign financing have contributed to cynicism and alienation among voters. She concludes with synopses of current proposals to address election problems and encourages young people to become involved in promoting reforms. The text is generally objective, criticizing parties, the media, and special interests from across the political spectrum. Average-quality, black-and-white and full-color photos supplement the text. Although this book provides accurate information, it will not draw a large audience. Kowalski's frequent use of contemporary examples and coverage of current reform proposals will date the book quickly, and the writing is often dry and uninvolving. Much of the material presented has been exhaustively covered in both the electronic and print news media as well as in numerous extant titles such as Tom Modl's America's Elections (Greenhaven, 1988; o.p.). Isobel Morin's Politics, American Style (21st Century, 1999) provides better historical coverage of the development of our political system. A supplemental report purchase, at best.-Mary Mueller, Rolla Junior High School, MO Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.