The Buck Stops Here by Alice Provensen
1990, Harper and Row, Hardcover
We've always been big fans of the Provensens. Martin and Alice Provensen authored and illustrated so many of our early childhood favorites including The Year at Maple Hill Farm, Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm, and A Book of Seasons. The two also illustrated The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown as well as the original Fuzzy Duckling. Their folksy artistic style is rich in character and their humor and insight appeals as much to parents as to children.
I had always known about the Provensen's picture books for older children, but hadn't started reading them until now. It seems my oldest son is the perfect age (9) for beginning an appreciation of The Buck Stops Here, and he's taken to it like a duck to water.
This book defies categorization in more ways than one. It is not for the very young, as many references are lost on children. It is not for the older crowd because of the simplicity of style and whimsy of rhymes. It isn't a History book in the sense that there is not much text or explanation of historical references. And if it is an art book, the subject is strange and the style plain.
So what is it exactly? It is all of these things together and none of them alone. The Buck Stops Here is a collection of artistic renditions and catchy rhymes for young and old about the first 41 presidents of the United States. The large, square watercolor portrait of each president is decorated with the ideas, events, and dilemmas that shaped each presidency, and thus the history of these fifty United States. Rhymes such as, "Reagan, Forty, reached his goal, Acting out his favorite role," and "Thomas Jefferson, Number three, Rigged the sale of the century" have a way of staying with a person. I have since read reviews online of this book and have not been surprised to read about grown men remembering the order of the presidents and key points of American history by turning the pages of this book over in their imaginations.
We've only just begun to enjoy this work, but I see it is has become a fast favorite as I just heard my son repeating, "Teddy Roosevelt, Twenty-six, Whisper softly, wave big sticks."
Reviewed by Suzanne Temple (4-29-07)