The Next President by Kate Messner

The Next President takes a unique approach to the list of presidents by looking at their backgrounds–and speculating on the future.

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents by Kate Messner, illustrated by Adam Rex. Chronicle, 2020, 48 pages.

Reading Level: Picture book, ages 4-8

Recommended for: ages 5-10

Future presidents are among us! Who might they be? At the time George Washington was sworn in as #1, nine future presidents were already grown men: Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J.Q. Adams, and Jackson. Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, and Zachary Taylor were teens or younger. We see all of them as they might have looked in 1789, growing up on farms, studying law or medicine, or serving in high office. Skipping to 1841, Lincoln is serving in the Illinois Legislature, U.S. Grant is at West Point, and James Garfield is working on his family’s farm. In 1897, Warren G. Harding is editing a newspaper and Herbert Hoover is managing an Australian gold mine. Move up to 1961, and Bill Clinton is learning the saxophone, Donald Trump is attending New York Military Academy (“where his father had hoped he’d learn some discipline”) and Barack Obama is a newborn.

Who’s next? “At least ten of our future presidents are probably alive today.” It’s an interesting thought, implying that old maxim that any child born in the USA could grow up to be its chief executive. The author makes a PC nod when explaining the requirements for office, which have to do with age and citizenship, “not your gender, whether or not you have a disability, the color of your skin, where your ancestors are from, what you believe, or who you love.” But that’s in the appendix; the main text is mostly free of current “theory” (though Jefferson, in particular, comes under the critical eye for enslaving people). It’s an interesting and relatable approach to the men who have served in our highest office, with lively but respectful illustrations and fascinating details.

Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)

Worldview/moral value: 3.5Artistic/literary value: 4.5Also at Redeemed Reader

Other books by Kate Messner: All the Answers, Ranger in Time, and How to Write a Story.

Books about the presidents: We’ve got a million of ’em! See our Giant booklist.

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