With the 2016 election only a year off, the current Democrat frontrunners are Hillary, Hillary, and Hillary—at least in the number of children’s books about her.
Over the summer, a reporter e-mailed to ask about Hillary Clinton books aimed at kids for an article she was writing. I replied that almost all of the titles available were in series about first ladies or famous women, but that as election time grew closer, there should be more.
The election may be a year away but, to say the least, the books have begun to arrive. The first two come from veteran nonfiction writers, both offering photo-assisted looks at Clinton for middle and older readers. Karen Blumenthal’s highly readable Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History is an in-depth portrait that gives teens a real feel for the woman behind the politics. Though touching on familiar milestones and repeating oft-told anecdotes (Mrs. Rodham gives young Hillary permission to sock a bully; Hillary introducing herself to Bill after exchanging many glances), the smooth narrative produces an understanding of the influences that shaped Clinton and the reasons for the decisions she has made. Blumenthal doesn’t shy away from the less savory aspects of the Clintons’ relationship, or the trouble Hillary seems to invite thanks to her occasional tin ear. Also discussed are such controversial issues as Benghazi, while an author’s note does an interesting job of explaining the occasional pitfalls of research. Call this one fair and balanced.
Cynthia Levinson’s Hillary Rodham Clinton: Do All the Good You Can, aimed at a slightly younger crowd, covers much of the same territory, though the emphasis here, as the subtitle indicates, is how a predilection for service is the key to understanding Clinton. Levinson, who attended Wellesley at the same time as Clinton, includes some original research amid interviews with friends and advisors. Denser detail gives way to more bullet-point-style writing here, but readers will still come away with a sense of what makes Hillary run, even in the face of overwhelming odds.
Jonah Winter and Raul Colón combine their talents in Hillary, starring a Hillary they feel is justifiably comparable to Queen Elizabeth I and Joan of Arc. Using just two spreads to move their subject through childhood and college, and two more to get her into the White House, the book then skips over the more unseemly parts of the Clinton presidency to touch upon her run for the senate and then presidency. Winter’s focus on Clinton’s time as secretary of state, and quotes and anecdotes, especially in relation to work for women’s rights, do offer plenty of food for thought. Much of the art is portraiture, giving ample opportunity to display Hillary’s myriad hairstyles, though this may confuse readers, especially when a pageboy and a French roll appear on the same page. Still, both this visual focus and ardent text make it possible for young readers to see Clinton as a real woman who “may soon change the world.”
Regardless of the outcome, Clinton’s
place in history is already secure.
Michelle Markel and LeUyen Pham’s smart and snappy Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead has groundbreaker Hillary as its center, of course, but also makes sure that young readers understand the backdrop of her achievements. This interweaving begins on the first spread—the 1950s—with brightly colored Girl Scout Hillary in the page corner, while behind her stand a sepia-toned gaggle of men from Elvis to Einstein, Hope to Hemingway: “Only boys had no ceilings on their dreams.” Markel’s text is compact but still manages to incorporate plenty of information. Pham’s eye-catching, stylized artwork is a visual treat, as it depicts not only Clinton’s achievements but also charts the evolution of women’s expectations, here and around the world. The final spread, this time of notable women from Condoleezza Rice to Malala Yousafzai to Sonia Gandhi, all in full, bracing color, is as inspiring as it is delightful.
If the last election taught us anything, it’s far too early to be fitting the Oval Office chair quite yet, but these four books make clear that, regardless of the outcome, Clinton’s place in history is already secure.