Gr 6-10-This straightforward biography focuses on Truman's life during his two terms as president. Little attention is given to his Missouri beginnings, stint in the army, or haberdashery days. Fleming's admiration for his subject is obvious as he describes Truman's political ascendancy and momentous decisions made in the White House. The former president emerges as a scrupulously honest, fair-minded, decisive- and above all-down-to-earth individual; his stubborn streak and occasional fits of temper appear more as virtues than weaknesses. Although the portrait is convincing, the author devotes too much space to background material, peppering the pages with more names and events than average young readers can assimilate. Considering Fleming's credentials (he collaborated with Margaret Truman on a biography of her father), one wishes he had offered more about the man and less on the turbulent times in which he served. Jim Hargrove's Harry S. Truman (Childrens, 1987) is better illustrated and Karin C. Farley's Harry Truman (Messner, 1989) is more readable. A typical series biography, but one that captures the essence of the man.-Pat Katka, San Diego Public Library
There are advantages to being an "official biographer," and Fleming makes good use of his access to family photographs and documents. Although his book is chiefly concerned with Truman's role as the Chief Executive, the author inserts family anecdotes throughout the text that show Truman as a man of deep loyalty and commitment to his wife and daughter. Truman was a skillful politician who looked and sounded like a small-town businessman, a leader whom some mistook for a lackey, a steadfast man of strong convictions and integrity. He needed all of these qualities during the last months of World War II, the difficult years of establishing a peacetime economy, and the Korean War. The author never questions Truman's judgment, even on highly controversial matters. The strongest cavil he offers is: "All in all, the steel strike was not one of Truman's finest hours." Fleming's text is smooth and fast-paced as he provides an interesting but uncritical introduction to the thirty-third president of the U.S.