Imagine a time when you, as an average American citizen, had absolutely no idea what your national leader looked like. As wild as this idea might sound to us in today’s digital age of immediate knowledge, this was pretty commonplace during the earliest years of our country’s history. In What Does the President Look Like?, a new nonfiction picture book, Jane Hampton Cook addresses the progression of the transmission of this information.
With the unveiling of a painting of George Washington in Philadelphia’s City Hall in 1796, the general public had the first opportunity to see a depiction of the president’s image. Apparently, up until that time, it was usual practice to hang portraits only in private homes, so this act also became one of the country’s first public art exhibits. Fast forward over 150 years, and image is suspected of playing a significant role in public perception during the presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon- with television viewers and radio listeners coming to different conclusions of which candidate “won.” These are just two facts that I gleaned from this interesting picture book for older readers. Going from paintings to political cartoons all the way to today’s inundation of photographic images, the history of public perceptions of presidents is explored here with plenty of “surprising facts” and tidbits from our nation’s past.
Each two-page spread includes whimsical illustrations in muted colors depicting the various time periods of the United States’ history, as well as boxes of information about the images of the presidents over the years. My own ten year old son has enjoyed reading through this book, not put off by the picture book format and drawn to the interesting presentation of the information.
For a unique approach to a specific aspect of our nation’s history that informs as well as entertains older children, pick up a copy of What Does the President Look Like?.
Armed with a basic digital camera, Dawn makes sure no one will ever question what the loved ones in her life look like. She enjoys sharing cute pics of her own future presidents on her blog, my thoughts exactly.