Friday, August 09, 2019

Guy Friday- Bringing Down a President

Forty five years ago today, President Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment, and President Ford took office. This is the first historical event that I remember reading about in the newspaper. In fact, I even clipped a headline and picture very similar to the one at left, and posted it on the bulletin board in my room. I knew that this was big news, and I felt bad for Nixon. Okay, I had just turned nine, and my big memory of Nixon was that he was responsible for bringing the pandas from China. My family didn't watch television news much, so I have never had a good understanding of the events that lead up to Nixon's resignation. Luckily, this new book helps!

Balis, Andrea and Levy, Elizabeth. Bring Down a President
Illustrations by Tim Foley
August 6th 2019 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Using direct quotes from wide variety of participants in the Watergate scandal and investigation, this book provides "Fly on the Wall" commentary on the events that happened from 1972 to 1974, with some additional back history about some of the people involved as well. I had never realized what a comedy of errors the whole thing was-- breaking into the Watergate, covering things up, bribing people right and left. Wow. There is a marvelous illustration of some of the men who tried to hide out in a closet and got locked in that made me snort with laughter, especially since it has a real Mad Magazine vibe to the line drawing.

This book does a great job at laying out events and explaining why things happened the way they did. The tone is very matter-of-fact, which could not have been an easy thing to do. My goodness. G. Gordon Liddy. He would have been fast friends with some current political figures today, I think! Oddly, most of the people come out looking fairly sympathetic as well; they had jobs to do for reasons that seemed like a good idea at the time, given the political environment. It seemed almost completely ludicrous, until I started trying to write a timeline of current political events in my mind.

Do I understand the Watergate Scandal better now? Yes, temporarily. Like the bank failures of 1929, I suspect that I won't hold onto this understanding for long, but this was a fantastic book. I'll definitely be purchasing it-- it has enough information for research, but its short length and plentiful illustrations will make it easier for students to pick up for pleasure as well. Language arts teachers will appreciate the innovative style and ample use of primary source quotes.

Messner, Kate. Night of Soldiers and Spies (Ranger in Time #10)
July 9th 2019 by Scholastic Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Ranger travels back in time via a magical first aid kit, and must stay until he figures out how to help a key figure in a historical event. This time, he is helping Isaac, a young African-American boy who was a fisherman and who gets caught up in the struggle against the British. Even though Isaac has to fight smallpox early in the book, he rallies enough to return to his unit, the Fourteenth Continental Regiment from Marblehead, Massachusetts. The cold, wet, and unpleasant conditions plaguing the military at this time are keenly felt by Isaac, but luckily, Ranger is there to stay by his side and help him out of the most dire scrapes. After being in the Hessians camp and talking to Colonel Rall, Isaac manages to get back to Washington and tell him the Hessians' plans. Washington plans an attack to occur before theirs. After a treacherous crossing of the frozen river, Isaac and Ranger are involved in the Battle of Trenton. Isaac is injured, but survives with Ranger's help. His job done, Ranger returns his humans in the present day, ready for his next adventure, Escape from the Twin Towers.

Isaac is an interesting character with whom many young readers will identify. War is certainly uncomfortable and dangerous, but it is also interesting and exciting. The chance to travel with the army, meet General Washingon, and be involved with major battles in history will appeal to readers who want to more about history.

The notes about the Revolutionary War at the end of the book are extremely helpful, and the bibliography will entice children to find out even more about the subject covered. There are a few pictures in the notes, but the most interesting thing was reading about how Messner researched and decided how to use real events in a fictional way to make an engaging story.

Like Lauren Tarshis' I Survived Books, Messner has covered many major historical events in a way that young readers will find engaging and interesting. In addition to being fun and factual reads for elementary aged students, these books are also an excellent way to cover historical topics for older, developmentally delayed students. I often use them when 8th grade students with special needs require a fiction book on a topic that pertains to the social studies curriculum. Ranger in Time books are written on a lower Lexile level, and also aren't as gorey and upsetting as some of the books for older readers.

Since these are now hitting most of the topics that Tarshis has covered, I haven't been increasing my collection. I purchased up through #7, and I will see if it is necessary to purchase additional volumes, depending on the readers I have.

This blouse is from Kohl's clearance, and what I wear when I have to pretend to be an adult and go out with friends. Today is a professional development day, and I am doing three sessions of "100 Great Books". Most of the teachers will be wearing jeans, so this is a very casual look for me. Also very washable, because I have to ride my bike four miles to get to the school where it is being held! The skirt was $2 at the thrift store.


  1. I was 19 and in college during the whole Watergate thing. I remember taking a class called Introduction to Law when Archibald Cox was fired. The prof held a panel discussion in class the next with several legal experts and talked about if Nixon could do that. Very tense times. There was a national sigh of relief when Gerald Ford took office.

  2. PS--thanks for keeping Guy Friday going!

  3. Have always enjoyed your reviews and am appreciating the fun of Look of the Day!

  4. Anonymous2:22 PM EDT

    I love hearing about your outfits! Really makes me want to hit up some thrift stores...
    I look forward to reading Bringing Down a President, as my history classes never got to Nixon. I find reading Children's history give me a much clearer and less biased look at US history.