Parents in search of teachable election-year moments with their kids as the presidential race sizzles in schools and around dinner tables need only depend on a duck, some dogs or a girl named Grace.
New children's books cover the voting process, life in the White House and the nation's star-spangled failure to give women the vote until 1920. There's also a book or two on what it might feel like to be a presidential offspring.
Helen Thomas, dean of the White House press corps, has teamed up with award-winning editorial cartoonist Chip Bok on "The Great White House Breakout," for release in August (Dial Books, $16.99, ages 6-up).
First boy Sam, whose mom is president, enlists the help of his pet rat and cat to escape his Secret Service nannies and go in search of a Washington, D.C., beyond the White House gates. The trio takes in the sights and has an unusual encounter with Abraham Lincoln before homesickness sets in.
In "Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote" (Henry Holt, $16.95, ages 9-12), writer Tanya Lee Stone and the American folk art-inspired illustrations of Rebecca Gibbon keep Stanton's story uncluttered but meaningful.
Stanton took as her battle cry: "Have it, we must. Use it, we will" as she fought tirelessly for the women's vote. She co-founded the National Woman Suffrage Association with Susan B. Anthony in 1869. The book stresses that Stanton loved her husband and seven children, but also loved jumping horses, whitewater rafting and studying Greek. She never loved housework.
A modern-day do-gooder, young Grace picks up Stanton's fight when she wonders out loud, "Where are the girls?" as her teacher unfurls a large poster of presidential portraits in "Grace for President" (Disney Book Group, $15.99, ages 5-9).
The spunky Grace decides to run for president herself in the school's mock election, but her resolve falters a tad when class star Thomas Cobb becomes her challenger. Playfully written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, Grace is careful not to over-promise during the neck-and-neck campaign, while Thomas keeps his eye on the vote count. The book's explanation of the Electoral College actually makes sense!
Other election-year books to inspire and educate:
Beloved children's writer Rosemary Wells, creator of the Max, Ruby, Yoko, McDuff and oh-so-many other popular characters, lets the fur fly in another student election, this one at Barkadelphia School. Tiffany the girlie, popular poodle and Charles the bulldog jock square off as they vie for votes in campaigns well-financed by their eager parents. Things get out of hand, and the election turns in favor of a sleeper candidate with a big heart and the will to back up his promises.
Teague's self-pitying but endearing pooch Ike is on the prowl with some rowdy pals while his owner, Mrs. LaRue, is laid up in the hospital after an encounter with a hot dog cart. Teague mixes newspaper clips, letters and split color-black-and-white images offering Ike's unique perspective as the terrier heads off anti-canine mayoral candidate Hugo Bugwort by throwing his hat into the ring, but politics aren't Ike's style.
"White House Q&A"(Collins, $16.99, ages 5-9) by Denise Rinaldo with the Smithsonian Institution.
President Bush gives Liberty the freed turkey a pat on the head and little Caroline Kennedy takes a ride on her pony, Macaroni, on the South Lawn in this look at life in America's most famous residence. Budding White House buffs learn through photos and other memorabilia that President Nixon had a one-lane bowling alley installed and Amy Carter had a tree house out back.
"What to Do About Alice?" (Scholastic, $16.99, ages 4-8) by Barbara Kerley and illustratedby Edwin Fotheringham.
Theodore Roosevelt once said of his oldest child: "I can be president of the United States or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both." Dubbed "Princess Alice" by the press, she lost her mother soon after her birth. Alice was 17 when her father, stepmother and five stepsiblings moved into the White House. This playful picture book traces Alice's life into adulthood. No carriage for Alice, she whizzed around town behind the wheel of her own car, danced until the wee hours and once bet on a horse race, later marrying a congressman.
"Duck for President" (Atheneum, $16.99, ages 4-8) by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin
The ambitious duck is back this election season, but as a reissue with a reconfigured cover declaring: "Duck is great for 2008!" Same story as '04, but still fun if you're a fan of the duckster, Farmer Brown and his barnyard gang. Duck first defeats Brown for control of the farm and works his way to the White House with help from sticky ballots that appear in odd places. But a duck is a duck and he decides the farm is the place for him, offering the space he needs to chronicle his political adventures in his autobiography.