The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America's Presidents

by Kate Messner (Author)

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America's Presidents
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

An inspiring and informative book for kids about the past and future of America's presidents. Who will be the NEXT president? Could it be you? When George Washington became the first president of the United States, there were nine future presidents already alive in America, doing things like practicing law or studying medicine. When JFK became the thirty-fifth president, there were 10 future presidents already alive in America, doing things like hosting TV shows and learning the saxophone. And right now--today!--there are at least 10 future presidents alive in America. They could be playing basketball, like Barack Obama, or helping in the garden, like Dwight D. Eisenhower. They could be solving math problems or reading books. They could be making art--or already making change.

- A breezy, kid-friendly survey of American history and American presidents- Great for teachers, librarians, and other educators-

From award-winning author Kate Messner and New York Times bestselling artist Adam Rex comes a timely and compelling compendium about the U.S. presidents--before they were presidents. Kate Messner is an award-winning author whose many books for kids have been selected as Best Books by the New York Times, Junior Library Guild, IndieBound, and Bank Street College of Education. She lives on Lake Champlain with her family. Adam Rex is the author and illustrator of many beloved picture books and novels, including Nothing Rhymes with Orange and the New York Times bestseller Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. He has worked with the likes of Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, Jeff Kinney, and Neil Gaiman. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Kirkus Reviews

What did presidents do before being elected? Tour a gallery of presidential portraits and find out!

There is always just one president at a time, but the presidents to come—maybe 10 or more—will be out there somewhere. When John F. Kennedy was elected as the 35th president in 1961, the next 10 presidents were alive. What were they doing? Lyndon Baines Johnson was Kennedy’s vice president. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer. George H.W. Bush was president of an oil exploration company. Donald Trump was attending a military academy, “where his father had hoped he would learn some discipline.” In his painterly art, Rex depicts a diverse group of people touring a gallery of presidential portraits. The tourists are multiracial and multiethnic, young and old. There’s a woman wearing a hijab pushing a stroller and a woman using a wheelchair. But the faces on the wall are all of white men until No. 44, President Barack Obama. There is no portrait of President Trump, but there is one of Hillary Clinton, “a woman nominated by a major party for the highest office of the land”—which, though true, is misleading in this context. Follow her gaze to an empty frame, No. 46, where the next portrait of a future president will be included. What are future presidents doing right now? The extensive backmatter is accessible and informative, and it includes reading suggestions for young readers.

Clear, engaging, and fun (and just a little iconoclastic). (presidential birthplaces, presidential requirements, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 8-12)


Starred Review

Who will be the next president? As political analysts debate contenders, the odds are that at least 10 of our future presidents are alive today. And three are probably kids right now! While most children’s books about presidents are a rundown of isolated facts, this clever informational picture book makes connections among presidents and their successors who were alive at the same time in 1789, 1841, 1897, and 1961. For instance, when John F. Kennedy was elected in 1961, the next 10 presidents were also alive. Realistic, digitally enhanced illustrations and short text boxes with plenty of surprises reveal that Gerald Ford was serving in Congress; Ronald Reagan was working as a TV host; Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump were all teenagers attending school; and Barack Obama was newly born. Between each section is additional lesser-known but engaging presidential trivia, from Abraham Lincoln’s Mississippi riverboat stint to Calvin Coolidge’s pet pygmy hippo. In the end, Messner returns to readers with a hopeful vision, underscoring that while historically presidents have been wealthy, white, Protestant men, anyone from a variety of backgrounds—including YOU—might be the next president. Rex’s final illustration, featuring individuals of different ages, races, religions, and sexual orientations, emphasizes the point. An ingenious exploration of presidents that will encourage children to consider their own futures.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Messner (Chirp) and Rex (Pluto Gets the Call) open with a flyleaf bookplate that reads not "This Book Belongs to" but rather "This Country Belongs to." It's emblematic of their core idea that "the presidents of tomorrow are always out there somewhere." Ingeniously structured around inaugural years, the book's softly textured digital vignettes are montaged to give a sense of events unfolding in many places and lives at once: "At the time of Washington's inauguration... Presidents 8, 9, and 12 were all kids." Two spreads illustrate that when William McKinley (the 25th president) took office in 1897, Teddy Roosevelt (26th) was assistant secretary of the Navy, Herbert Hoover (31st) was running a gold mine in Australia, while Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th), age seven, was helping out in the family creamery and playing baseball. Throughout, this timeline treatment shows how some future presidents have clearly and intently waited in the wings, while others could not seem further from the Oval Office. By the time the authors wrap with a variously inclusive spread reading "at least ten of our future presidents are probably alive today," readers may be convinced that the future is wide open--presidentially speaking. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 2-5--Messner leads a delightful march through our nation's presidents, focusing on where they were and what they were doing at various points in history. She emphasizes that there are "presidents of tomorrow" already living among us today. The time line begins with George Washington and describes what the nine presidents who were alive during his tenure were doing. The text discusses the list of leaders and their early lives through the presidency of John F. Kennedy, including the information that presidents 42-45 were still children. The book ends with a call to future generations. Messner's writing maintains a buoyant tone throughout the narrative. Most of her factoids are interesting, though they become dry by the time readers get to later presidents. Messner seems to show a bit of bias in her inclusion of a negatively toned fact about Donald Trump, combined with prominent inclusions of Hillary Clinton. Most other facts are lighthearted. With the exception of Clinton, the book does not feature any other presidential nominee who lost. However, this does not detract from the overall quality of the text or Rex's beautiful illustrations. VERDICT A vivacious exploration of the early lives of the leaders of the free world; an excellent nonfiction addition that will engage young history buffs.--Brittany McMahon, Westernport Elementary School, MD

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"[The Next President is a] vivacious exploration of the early lives of the leaders of the free world; an excellent nonfiction addition that will engage young history buffs."-School Library Journal, Starred Review
Kate Messner
Kate Messner is an award-winning author whose books for kids have been New York Times Notable, Junior Library Guild, IndieBound, and Bank Street College Best Books selections. She lives on Lake Champlain with her family.

Heather Ross is an illustrator and fabric designer. She lives in New York City and the Catskill Mountains with her husband, daughter, and dog.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
March 20, 2020

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