First Mothers Written by Beverly Gherman; Illustrated by Julie Downing
February 21, 2013 in Books With Social Studies Content, Elementary Educators, Gherman Beverly, Making Personal Connections, Picture Book, Research Ideas, Writing Skills Tags: nonfiction picture books, picture books about the president, Presidents' Day
*Nonfiction picture book about the U.S. presidents’ mothers for upper elementary
*Mothers as main topics in the book
*Rating: I adore this book, First Mothers written by Beverly Gherman. The language is perfect for kids–she took a difficult subject & did a wonderful job with it! The illustrations by Julie Downing are even better–there’s even some humor, which makes a book like this more appealing to kids!
Short, short summary: First Mothers is a look at every single president’s mother from George Washington to Barack Obama. The author tells vital statistics such as birth, death, marriage date, and date she gave birth to the president. Each mother is also given a title, such as George Washington’s mother, which is The FIRST First Mother, Ida Stover Eisenhower, which is The Pacifist Mother, and Barbara Pierce Bush, The Outspoken Mother. There are also paragraphs about each mother with details about what she liked to do, how she raised her children, how she met the president’s father, and more. For example, on the page about President Grant’s mother, Hannah Simpson Grant, the author tells how she was shy and didn’t even attend her son’s presidential inauguration or brag about him when he went to West Point or became the general of the Union Army. The illustration of her shows a woman sewing and a speech bubble that says, “It’s not right to brag, but Ulysses was a good boy.” Children and adults will get a kick out of this book. I found it fascinating!
So, what do I do with this book?
1. Have each student choose a First Mother to research further OR research a bit about her son, and see if there’s any connection to the son’s interests/way he was president and her description in the book. Since these research projects could be enormous, ask students to focus on certain aspects, such as: Did the mother have a job outside the home? What were her hobbies? What did her other children do? Where did she live her life?
2. The illustrations in this book (by Julie Downing) are fantastic! I really recommend going through the book and just looking and studying the illustrations. Towards the end, some of the first mothers reappear and make comments–on Barack Obama’s mom’s page, the first mothers from the 18th and 20th century say, “Is she wearing pants?” HA! On Bill Clinton’s mom’s page, the older first mothers ask, “What did she do to her hair?” Bill Clinton’s mom had a white streak through it, kind of like a skunk. . .Sometimes, as teachers/parents, we don’t take the time to look at illustrations. You don’t want to do that with this book.
3. The very last page of this book has a first mother standing there with a speech bubble, which says: “So, if you want to be president, listen to your mother.” Use this as a writing prompt with students. Ask them to think of advice they’ve heard from a female role model that could help them to one day be president. An example would be, “Mind your manners.” “Do your homework before you play.” “Read every day.”
Don’t forget, I have an exciting giveaway going on! It’s for a middle-grade (8 to 12) Christian fiction novel titled, A Cat Named Mouse: The Miracle of Answered Prayer. Go here to enter the giveaway.