Children’s Poet Laureate Monthly Book Picks

Each month, the Children’s Poet Laureate recommends a book of poetry for children. Selections include classics of children’s literature, adult collections that are well-suited to children, as well as newly published books.

Rutherford B. Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents

Kenn Nesbitt’s August 2014 Book Pick

Rutherford B. Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents

by Marilyn Singer

Disney-Hyperion Books December 2013

In this collection of 40 verses, Marilyn Singer gives us a brief introduction to each of our 43 Presidents, highlighting their philosophies and characters, their goals and accomplishments, how the people felt about them, and what their presidencies are remembered for.

A few of the Presidents – such as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – share a single poem, but most get their own treatment, and some pages include famous quotes from them as well. Full of historical facts and informational tidbits, the form and style varies from poem to poem; most are rhymed, a few are written in speech bubbles as conversations between Presidents or political parties, and Singer even summarizes Richard Nixon’s presidency in a reverso, a poetic form she invented that tells two different stories, depending on whether you read it from top to bottom or in reverse.

In addition to the poems, Rutherford B. Who Was He? includes short biographies of each President in the end materials, expanding on their lives and time in office. The colorful, expressive pen-and-ink illustrations by John Hendrix, evocative of political cartoons, compliment Singer’s verses with wit, charm, and insight. Together they make this collection possibly the most fun way ever to learn about the men who led our nation.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.