For every president, there has been a first lady, sometimes two. Who were these women? How has the job of First Lady (unpaid and unelected) changed over time? The Smart About format proves just right for covering history in an easy, appealing way.
Within the "Smart About..." series of fact-filled pages, students find both general and specific information about a variety of topics primarily in social studies, but also art and science. Cartoon-like illustrations are bright and colorful. They bring personalities of notable figures to life while the fonts have fanciful embellishments. Similar formatting and style suggest an actual report, particularly since the books include an introductory letter "From the desk of Ms. Brandt." There is also a note of response telling their teacher how the project went, some of what was learned, and an antidote or two. For instance, in this particular book, basic questions are answered in the beginning. "Who is the first lady? What does she do?" Then, there is a brief description of the White House along with a simple map of the layout. From First Lady Martha Dandridge Custis Washington through First Lady Michelle Robinson Obama, each page offers a short first-person account as if she is actually speaking to the reader or an audience. How have roles changed? What are some of their individual interests? First ladies might share what daily life is like, something about their family, how they participated in politics, or other important aspects of their time in the White House. In addition, they offer one more key insight about their experience by completing the phrase: "While I lived in the White House..." the completion of the sentence appears as if handwritten. By using a kid-friendly approach and a mix of fun facts with sound historical perspective, readers will utilize the series as a quick reference, to launch further study, for single or group work, and as a basic source. Books might also be an appropriate model for creating reports and projects geared to middle elementary children. Reviewer: Susan Treadway, M.Ed.