First Mothers

Overview

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson's mother ran a plantation by herself, or that Abraham Lincoln's mother was a wrestler? James Madison's mom called him "Jemmy" and made his shirts while he went to college, and Woodrow Wilson created Mother's Day to celebrate all mothers—especially his. Join Beverly Gherman and Julie Downing in this celebration of the women behind the White House.  Gherman delightfully dishes fun facts about each mother, and Downing's lively illustrations are sure to enthrall and ...

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Overview

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson's mother ran a plantation by herself, or that Abraham Lincoln's mother was a wrestler? James Madison's mom called him "Jemmy" and made his shirts while he went to college, and Woodrow Wilson created Mother's Day to celebrate all mothers—especially his. Join Beverly Gherman and Julie Downing in this celebration of the women behind the White House.  Gherman delightfully dishes fun facts about each mother, and Downing's lively illustrations are sure to enthrall and entertain.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Franklin Pierce's mother loved to shock her Puritan neighbors in New Hampshire "by wearing bright colors and skirts short enough to show her ankles." William McKinley's mother snatched roses from a train car to carry to her son's inauguration. The mother of five-star general Dwight Eisenhower was a pacifist. These are among the details Gherman (whose earlier children's books include biographies of John Quincy Adams and Jimmy Carter) unearths in this collection of profiles of the mothers of each of the U.S. presidents. Given the range of personalities covered, and presumably the historical resources available, some of the sketches are meatier than others. Among unsurprising accounts of hardworking women devoted to their families, Gherman inserts some lively, little-known zingers: Mary Ball Washington "was not impressed" when her son became the first president, and Nancy Hanks Lincoln "outwrestled many of the men in her town." Craftily mining the personalities of each woman, Downing (The Ice Cream King) contributes watercolor and colored pencil portraits of the mothers on their home turfs, humorously underscoring their many diverse eccentricities. Ages 6–9. Illustrator's agent: Jane Feder. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Craftily mining the personalities of each woman, Downing contributes watercolor and colored pencil portraits of the mothers on their home turfs, humorously underscoring their many diverse eccentricities."—Publishers Weekly

"Young readers will enjoy perusing this engaging and utterly browsable collection of quick facts about these little-known, but very important women."—School Library Journal

"Colorfully illustrated and surprisingly entertaining."—Booklist

Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
This engaging compendium of biographies of the mothers of U.S. presidents is perfect for National Women's History Month, and each offers fascinating insight on her august son as well. For example, Mary Ball Washington was a constant worrier who never praised her accomplished George. Nancy Hanks Lincoln insisted that Abe and his sister attend school even if it meant a round-trip walk of eighteen miles. When Lyndon Baines Johnson's strict mother was angry with him, she would not talk to him for weeks. Richard Nixon's mother baked fifty pies a day to sell at the family gas station, and Gerald Ford's mom escaped an abusive relationship by leaving in the dead of night with her baby. Illustrator Downing not only captures the appearance and personality of each woman in her dynamic paintings but reveals, over the course of the book, a sense of changing dress and parenting styles. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—Warren Harding's mother, Phoebe Dickinson Harding, eloped at the age of 20. Abigail Adams, a first mother and a First Lady, never had any formal schooling. Lillian Gordy Carter joined the Peace Corps when she was 68 years old, after her husband had passed away. These tidbits and many more fill the pages of this book. Brief entries highlight interesting, unique details about all 44 of the first mothers, and one stepmother. The items vary in length, with more recent first mothers generally having more in-depth coverage, and each woman is given a descriptive designation based on available information, e.g., "the devoted mother," "the flamboyant mother," etc. All include fun illustrations of the mom-of-note and short statistics such as birth and death dates, as well as the birth date of the future president. Young readers will enjoy perusing this engaging and utterly browsable collection of quick facts about these little-known, but very important women. Pair and share this with Kathryn Davis's Wackiest White House Pets (Scholastic, 2004) and/or Kathleen Krull's Lives of the Presidents (Houghton Harcourt, 2011) to pique interest in this year's presidential election.—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Behind every great man….And behind many of our presidents, there's also an unknown woman. This book sheds light on our leaders' mothers and how their influences possibly shaped the founding dads. If they care, browsers will eke out at least one factoid they never knew about each presidential mom, even famous ones. Some tidbits are intriguing--Nancy Lincoln's prowess as a wrestler, Malvina Arthur's efforts to prove Chester was American-born, and Elizabeth Harrison's warnings to Benjamin to avoid cucumbers. Many share commonalities. While some came from privilege, many raised their (usually) large families more humbly, even in poverty. Many mothers were religious and passed on strict moral values to their progeny, including an abhorrence of social injustice. Some profiles are more detailed than others, perhaps due to spottier information in older historical records. The mothers of the more recent presidents are given slightly fuller portrayals. Occasional captions and cartoon-y speech balloons add supplemental information. Some facts are simplistic, even incorrect, as in the case of Warren Harding, "one of our worst presidents," whose corrupt administration is passed off "because he did not stand up for his ideas." Sadly, there are several instances of disputed or inaccurate dates in various profiles. The watercolor-and–colored-pencil illustrations are bland, with many women looking identical, the passage of time marked only by changes in fashions, hairstyles and "props." There's not much for kids about presidential mothers, and at least this book covers every White House resident so far. (bibliography, author's note) (Nonfiction. 7-11)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547223018
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/11/2012
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 803,216
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: 870L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Beverly Gherman has written biographies about authors, dancers, presidents, scientists, and artists. Her engaging child-accessible style has won her many fans and many awards, including a California Library Beatty Award, a Booklist Editor's Choice, an SCBWI Golden Kite Honor, a Smithsonian Notable Book, and an Oppenheimer Toy Portfolio Gold Award. Beverly lives in San Francisco.

Julie Downing has written and/or illustrated over 30 picture books. For Clarion, she has illustrated The Firekeeper’s Son by Linda Sue Park, among others. Her books have received a Parents’ Choice Award and a New York Public Library Best Books Award. She lives in San Francisco, California. For more information visit www.juliedowning.com.

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