National Poetry Month Kid Lit Review of “Rutherford B. Who Was He? Poems About Our Presidents” by Marilyn Singer

These poems are immensely clever. In just a few rhyming and often very funny lines the author manages to convey the essence of each president’s time in office.

For example, this is the poem from whence the title comes:

“Rutherford B., who was he?
Honest and upstanding, or His Fraudulency?
He won a harsh election with disputes and appeals,
(and also quite possibly backroom deals).
He believed in suffrage, thought the South would comply,
that all would get to vote (which proved to be a lie).
He had faith in education and desire for reform,
but he chose to steer a middle path
and not stir up a storm.
He had radical thoughts and conservative ways.
He said so himself, did President Hayes.”

The poem about Theodore Roosevelt is succinctly informative, with the accompanying picture giving a perfect representation of his personality.


How compactly the author tells what happened to James A. Garfield:

“He won a close election, was eager to begin.
Got shot by a crazed office seeker.
Doctors likely did him in.”

The poem about Abraham Lincoln is serious, and is paired with one about Andrew Johnson that is very funny.

As with many of the poems, the artwork accompanying the verse about Grant adds much to the composite portrait crafted by the combination of author and illustrator.


Singer writes humorously of Truman:

“No one was brasher
than that former haberdasher,
more prone to fury
than that man from Missouri….”

The poems begin with George Washington and continue through and including the administration of Barak Obama.

The ingenious mixed media illustrations by John Hendrix add wonderful details to the history of each president’s administration. His pictures are totally unpredictable and his inspired visual interpretations will have you shaking your head in appreciation.

The back matter includes short biographies of each president including a significant quote by each of them.

Evaluation: This is a fantastic way for kids to learn about the U.S. Presidents. Highly recommended!

Rating: 5/5

Published by Disney/Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group, 2013

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5 Responses to National Poetry Month Kid Lit Review of “Rutherford B. Who Was He? Poems About Our Presidents” by Marilyn Singer

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    That looks fantastic! I’d like to frame some of the pagespreads.

  2. parrish lantern says:

    As I’m based in the UK, I thought I’d contribute with a poem referencing Prime Ministers

    The Prime Minister is 10 today ~ David Harmer

    This morning I abolished
    homework, detention and dinner ladies outlawed lumpy custard, school mashed spuds
    and handwriting lessons.
    From now on playtimes must last two hours
    unless it rains, in which case we all go home
    except the teachers who must do extra PE
    outside in the downpour.

    whispering behind your hand in class
    must happen each morning between ten and twelve
    and each chinned only do
    10 minutes work in one school hour.

    I’ve passed a No Grumpy teacher law
    so one bad word or dismal frown
    from Mr Sptite or Miss Hatchetface
    will get them a moth’s stretch
    sharpening pencils and marking books
    inside the gaol of their choice.

    All head teachers are forbidden
    from wearing soft-soled shoes,
    instead they must wear wooden clogs
    so you can here them coming.
    They are also banned from shouting
    or spoiling our assembly by pointing
    at the ones who never listen.
    Finally, the schools must shut
    for at least half year
    and if the weathers really sunny
    the teachers have to take us all
    to the sea side for the day/.

    If you’re got some good ideas
    for other laws about the
    grown ups
    drop me a line in downing street,
    I’ll always be glad to listen.
    Come on, help me change a thing or two
    Before we grow up and get boring.

    • Thank you so much for this! It reminds me a bit of A.A.Milne’s poem “Lines and Squares” and actually even of his poem “The King’s Breakfast.” Very nice of you to share this!

  3. sagustocox says:

    OOO, I will have to get this one for my daughter!

  4. stacybuckeye says:

    I need this one, well see about Gage later. Off to see if the library has it.

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