Lane Smith's Madam President is the story of a young girl named Katy who fancies herself the President of the United States. She goes through her elementary school day emulating the President, giving executive orders, participating in photo ops, kissing babies, negotiating treaties, and, of course, delivering vetoes. She is clearly Presidency-obsessed, as she strides through life, leaving a trail of small US flags and slightly bemused observers, behind. There's not much of a story, this is a day-in-the-life book, but the humor and detail make it a gratifying read.
The illustrations are detailed, created in a unique combination of digital manipulation and pencil drawing, possibly with some collage. Katy's suit is a child's version of an adult woman's pantsuit. It is perfect for her role. Her expressions range from aloof to sentimental to sad, but always with a sense of self-importance lurking in the background, in a brilliant parody of the expressions of real-world politicians. One of my favorite pages is the one in which "a president must choose a capable cabinet." Katy's cabinet members include the "Secretary of Naps", "Secretary of the Interior" (pictured with one of those figurines showing the skeleton and internal body parts), and the "Secretary of Pizza", among other entertaining choices. There's also a fun page consisting of nine little sketches of Katy issuing Vetoes, including one "V-toe!". She also vetoes the Little House on the Prairie musical, which I thought was pretty funny. On another page, Katy is protected in the schoolyard by her Secret Service Agent cat, while a huge variety of kids fill the background. One boy is literally doubled over by the weight of his backpack, while another child looks from behind like Mickey Mouse (a nod to the publisher).
Madam President is a book to reward repeated readings, as new details will become apparent each time the reader visits the book. It is bound to be a hit, especially during this election year. The humor, and the strength of characterization of Katy, keep the story from being at all didactic, despite the information imparted about what Presidents do all day. Madam President offers a unique contribution to the picture book universe. Highly recommended.
Publication Date: July 29, 2008
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: BestBooksIHaveNotRead, Literate Lives, Pink Me, Young Readers, 100 Scope Notes
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.