Hanoch Piven's What Presidents Are Made Of is a truly weird picture book, but it will probably delight many readers, young and old. The illustrations of the presidents' faces -- which look a lot like Mr. Potato Head -- incorporate objects that tell something about them. For instance, George W. Bush is described as a sports fan, so he has a hot dog for a nose, a split bun for eyebrows, blueberry eyes and a baseball mouth. Andrew Jackson is deemed hot- tempered -- so bullets form his eyes; a red, white and blue boxing glove represents his nose; and a pistol makes his mouth.
The New York Times
Here, presidential trivia forms (literally) each 3-D portrait. Likenesses are as uncanny as they are witty: Reagan is instantly recognizable with jellybean facial features, and Jefferson sports a quill-pen mouth and slipper-clad feet. Why not shoes? He "hated stuffy, formal manners" and shocked officials from other countries when he greeted them in his gown and slippers. (Ages 6 to 8)
Child magazine's Best Children's Book Awards 2004
In this comical collection of portraits of U.S. presidents, Piven (The Perfect Purple Feather) capitalizes on children's interest in unusual historical facts by juxtaposing a short anecdote next to a clever, collage caricature. Reagan plays ping-pong with the chimpanzee from Bedtime for Bonzo, while obese Taft literally gets stuck in the White House bathtub with a yellow duckie. Piven not only captures expressions but zeroes in on personality traits. He references George W. Bush's enthusiasm for sports with a nose and eyebrows created from a hot dog and bun, while tiny baseballs outline his bemused mouth. Bill Clinton's gummy-bear grin is turned upside-down to illustrate his teacher giving him a C for "raising his hand too often." Piven nicely varies the compositions: Teddy Roosevelt gets a spread with spot illustrations of his many interests, while Thomas Jefferson appears across the gutter from Andrew Jackson (the duel-prone president's eyes are made from bullets). The title of the book is intriguing, and the text and portraits cohere thematically, but the repeated riff on the titular phrase does not always work (e.g., "Presidents are made of comfortable shoes," "Presidents are made of speed demons"). Although not every president is represented, a closing "Presidential Timeline" shows portraits or photos of all the inhabitants of the Oval Office. Published just in time for the election, these funny historical tidbits about American presidents are bound to delight grade school history buffs. Ages 6-10. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
This is a unique way of presenting interesting characteristics of presidents. It must have been fun to select the various objects to represent aspects of the personalities of each president. I got a particular chuckle from the rendition of President Taft. The bathtub episode reminded me of the huge seat in the balcony of the Yale auditorium made just for him. I sat in it once during a concert and there was enough room for two additional people. The section about Ronald Reagan and the jellybeans was a reminder of my days in the U. S. Senate. At the time Jimmy Carter was president and there were peanuts in all of the offices. I bet during Reagan's term there were jellybeans in all of the offices. I think it would be great for children to pick some of the other president(How about President Lyndon B. Johnson, Dwight D. Eisenhower or John Quincey Adams?) and put together objects about them. A fun book! 2004, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Ages 6 to 10.
Gr 2-6-Beginning with its wordplay title, this book exhibits Piven's flair for creativity and whimsy. Focusing on 17 U.S. presidents, each single- or double-page entry begins with the same phrase ("Presidents are made of-"), includes an interesting anecdote showing the human side of that individual, and presents a collage caricature made of inventive bits of realia that extend the metaphors suggested in the text. For example, George Washington is "-made of good deeds." The narrative recounts how he helped extinguish a neighborhood fire at age 67. His "portrait" has eyes made of small resin-coated American flags that reflect enough light to make them twinkle. Thomas Jefferson is made of "comfortable shoes"; Andrew Jackson, "hot tempers"; Theodore Roosevelt, "endless energy"; and Bill Clinton, "enthusiasm." The last spread has official portraits of all the presidents, their birth and death dates, and their years in office. In the introduction, readers are invited to compare the "object portraits" with the realistic images and to fashion collages of their own. Children will be fascinated by the imaginative, humorous artwork and will appreciate the anecdotes that allow them to see the "stuff" that presidents are made of. This book should be particularly popular at election time, but will be enjoyed any time, singly or in groups.-Lynda Ritterman, Atco Elementary School, Waterford, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Piven makes presidents, Walter Wick-style, from assemblages of small toys, jelly beans, plastic ears, cutlery, American flag pins, dismembered doll limbs, and other found objects, creating 16 caricatures that riff on Presidential foibles or backgrounds. The combative Andy Jackson's nose, for instance, is a boxing glove; Jimmy Carter's, a pair of peanuts; and the current Bush sports a hot dog (for his baseball connection) beneath broken-bun brows. Piven captions each head shot with a brief anecdote or Presidential bon mot. Capped by a complete gallery of thumbnail-sized official portraits, this helps to put human faces on many of our Chief Executives, though it's neither as richly detailed, nor as politically balanced, as Judith St. George's So You Want to Be President!, illustrated with Caldecott-winning art by David Small (2000). (source list) (Picture book/nonfiction. 8-10)