Aug 25, 2015

Election Picture Books: Vote for Monsters, Ducks, and Teachers!

The primary debates have begun. Whether you're anticipating the coming presidential campaign hoopla with glee or grimaces, kids will be viewing a flood of media on the topic. Take a  proactive approach to help them learn that elections, civic responsibilities, and campaign issues are about more than ranting, self-serving, and attacks. If we are to have any hope of sustaining a true democracy, it's essential for young people to see government as something other than a warped and orchestrated reality show. 
To make those discussions age-appropriate and FUN, here's a new release and several favorite picture books to launch you on your way. It's both sad and ironic that books featuring a monster and a duck as candidates may offer more legitimate discussions of democracy than actual campaign media.
Mighty Media Kids, 2015

First up is MONSTER NEEDS YOUR VOTE, written by Paul Czajak and illustrated by Wendy Grieb,  hot off the press just in time for the fall campaigns. This is not Monster's first starring role in a book, but he certainly has ambitions. If you love candy (or power of any kind) why not run for president? Then you can have and do anything you want, right?
This story suggests that his monster-ous persona turns off voters and his promises aren't enough to win them back to his side. 
Monster's visual qualities combine "scary" elements with an awkwardly winning smile, expressive eyes and eyebrows, and soft, fuzzy colors. Metaphors for actual candidates abound. Anyone seen as "perfect" should be viewed with a strong dose of skepticism. Candidates are flawed humans, and it is up to voters to do the analytics needed to evaluate and select the one(s) who can best lead our communities, digging deeper than appearances and campaign slogans..
Monster's kid-sidekick plays an essential role in helping Monster redefine public service as his mission. There's potential for comparing this to the traditional EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES, too, in which those in power are blinded by flattery and it takes an honest kid to see and proclaim the truth.
Touch-points of reality include underfunded libraries and schools, and Constitutional requirements for becoming president. Kids who have met Monster in earlier titles will welcome this one, and those who meet him for the first time here will want to read about his other adventures. The conclusion of this story sets a fine example that individuals can "campaign" for their worthwhile causes without running for public office. 

Simon and Schuster, 2004

DUCK FOR PRESIDENT, written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin 
Titles produced by this author/illustrator/cast of characters-combo have become classics, making Duck's exploits and ambitions even more appealing. The animal antics in this series aren't just comic, but are recognizably human and universal. If you've ever asked someone (of any age) what they would do if they were president, their responses are likely to be as cluelessly-warped in their assumptions as Duck's  and Monster's are. 
Fun discussions of that question after sharing these books will be an ideal preliminary to sharing the next offering.

Dutton Juvenile, 2004
MY TEACHER FOR PRESIDENT, is written by Kay Winters and illustrated by Denise Brunkus. The premise here is that students nominate their teacher to be president, offering concrete examples of her practices and values that PROVE she would be the best possible president. 
Facing spreads display the teacher in classroom settings and then applying the same judgment and character traits in a presidential role.
There are plenty of laughs (or at least chuckles) in these pages, along with recognition and analysis of the way character traits and habitual practices have value in every day lives. 

Bloomsbury Books, 2012, with updates
For older readers don't miss Susan E. Goodman's SEE HOW THEY RUN: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the Whitehouse. Goodman's thorough and resourced research offers page after page of election anecdotes and expanded stories that seem too incredible to be true. As they say, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, they are! Illustrator Elwood H. Smith brings to hilarious life these ludicrous but illuminating historic vignettes. Kids will pore over the images  time and again, and repeat many of the facts to incredulous adults. Some of these stories make Ducks and Monsters for president sound close to feasible!

While you're at it, share some of our nation's history regarding voters' rights with resources offered in this previous post. Sounds like a perfect way to get families engaged in productive discussions of elections. If you have other titles to suggest, share them in the comments!

Paul Czajak, author of MONSTER NEEDS YOUR VOTE, contributes articles to HUFF POST: EDUCATION blog. Here's his recent piece on engaging young people in the election process and the essential principles of democracy and voting (here).

Look for MONSTER NEEDS YOUR VOTE and other election titles at Barnes and Noble "Kids' Corner" table displays this fall, and check Monster's CAMPAIGN headquarters  to find other interesting election-related facts at this link. 


  1. Sandy, thanks so much for putting See How They Run in such good political company. You mentioned in your description of it that it contains stories that seem too incredible to be true. Who could believe what's happening this election cycle!

  2. I couldn't agree more, Susan. Since you keep this amazing book updated with each cycle, I can't wait to see what updates about the current election cycle/circus will make the cut! Ripley's Believe-It-or-Not, move over, the 2016 candidates are coming your way! Thanks for stopping by!


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