Israeli artist and author Hanoch Piven has created an extraordinarily fun way for children to look at all 44 of our American presidents in an updated edition of his 2004 hit, What Presidents Are Made Of ($6.99, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, ages 6 -10). This playful perspective presents each leader with his face depicted through a collage of items ranging from chains, telephone cord and jelly beans to a kazoo and a hot dog – yes, I kid you not, a genuine frankfurter for a nose! It also sheds light on different aspects of their character or persona.
Did you know, for example, that Ulysses S. Grant once got a $20 ticket for dashing just a bit too quickly in his one-horse carriage and had only praise for the policeman who fined him, or that Franklin D. Roosevelt never liked the food his White House chef cooked but felt he just could not fire her? My favorite picture also belongs to that of our 32nd president and has a remarkable resemblance to Martin Scorsese with his prominent black bolt eyebrows.
In his straightforward introduction, Pinoch shares an artist’s ever creative approach to evoking these larger-than-life individuals for children to enjoy, but also to learn from in a light-hearted, whimsical way. He also encourages kids to try their hand at reproducing a president’s likeness using found objects. If I were a teacher I’d have a blast with this book, but parents can also take part in the portrait-making process. Go on, think about someone you’d like to recreate on paper (Lady Gaga, First Lady Michelle Obama, or maybe even Sponge Bob), get out some pasta, push pins, a few earrings that have lost their pairs, and start your own art project today.