As the country prepares for the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assignation, children may be encountering the story of this famous president for the first time. Children’s books will shed light on the personal and presidential elements of Kennedy’s life and death.
“Kennedy’s Last Days: The Assassination that Defined a Generation” by Bill O’Reilly, 2013, Henry Holt, 318 pages, ages 10-14.
Adults readers may know Bill O’Reilly’s historical thriller “Killing Kennedy”, a New York Times best seller, and National Geographic television movie. This adapted book version, containing color and black and white photographs, sets the stage before the assassination and places readers at the scene on that sad November day in Dallas. The vocabulary and details are interesting and appropriate for the age group, although many adults will also appreciate the engaging text and historical images. Bill O’Reilly is known for his role as the anchor of the cable news show “The O’Reilly Factor”, but he is also a former high school English teacher and the author of “Lincoln’s Last Days”.
“I am John F. Kennedy”, by Grace Norwich, Illustrations by Anthony VanArsdale, 2013, Scholastic, 127 pages, ages 8-11.
This easy chapter book biography begins with the story of John Kennedy as a boy, helping readers understand the influence his family and background had on him as a president. The story then follows Kennedy through his college days and on to his career as a politician, marriage, and becoming a father. Only a very small portion of a chapter is devoted to the actual assassination, encouraging young readers to focus on the details of Kennedy’s life, rather than his death. At the end of the book, readers will find a list of 20 interesting facts about Kennedy, summarizing his career and life.
“’The President Has Been Shot’: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy”, by James L. Swanson, 2013, Scholastic, 274 pages, ages 11-14.
A young adult biography, this book chronicles the lives of two main characters, John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, as they follow parallel tracks that eventually emerge at the point of Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. Riveting descriptions, sepia-toned photographs, diagrams, and info-graphs set the stage for this historic event and give readers various sources of information for developing an understanding of Kennedy’s life and death. The author focuses on the facts, steering clear of the conspiracy theories, although he points out mishandlings of Kennedy’s case that, if handled properly, could have prevented the emergence of such theories. James Swanson also wrote the young adult book “Chasing Lincoln’s Killer”, an adaptation of his book “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer”.
Informational books, such as these books about Kenney’s life and death, bring history alive for readers of all ages.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Dobler