Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Making of America, Book 5

Book review by
Kyle Jackson, Common Sense Media
Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Making of America, Book 5 Book Poster Image
Informative, fair, balanced bio of the New Deal president.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Touches on many of the most important events and legislation that shaped Roosevelt's political career, though few are covered in depth and detail. There are also some helpful sidebar explanations of concepts like laissez-faire economics and fascism, as well as a recurring infographic breaking down the various points along the left-right political spectrum.

Positive Messages

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Roosevelt is portrayed as a shrewd politician an effective leader, rather than as a perfect role model. Still, his policies and his speeches reflected a desire to reduce inequality and provide relief for struggling people. His wife, Eleanor, on the other hand, stands out as a committed activist who fought for human rights and justice for African Americans throughout her public life.


Discussion of World Wars 1 and II, Stalin's tyranny and violent purges, Hitler's targeting of Jewish people and sending them to concentration camps, America's internment of Japanese Americans.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Teri Kanefield's Franklin D Roosevelt: The Making of America is a fact-filled biography of a complicated man who made a profound impact on American history. The book doesn't shy away from Roosevelt's personal life, including romantic affairs, and does a great job describing how his aristocratic upbringing shaped his worldview. Helpful explanations of political battles and major historical events make the book a great tool for introducing middle grade readers to topics like World War I and World War II, the Great Depression, and the New Deal.

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What's the story?

The fifth book in a Teri Kanefield's series of historical biographies for young readers, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: THE MAKING OF AMERICA follows the life and political career of the longest-serving president in U.S. history. Born into a family of wealthy and well-connected New York aristocrats, young Franklin was spoiled and coddled from a young age, especially by his mother, Sara. As he grew up and began to ponder his future, he drew inspiration from his idol and fifth cousin, Teddy Roosevelt, patterning his career trajectory almost exactly after his relative's rise to the presidency. After falling in love and marrying another cousin, Eleanor, Franklin got into politics, rising quickly from state senator to assistant secretary of the navy to governor of New York and finally Commander in Chief. Despite some rocky moments in their romantic life, Eleanor and Franklin made for a powerful dynamic duo, and after the president's death in 1945, Eleanor continued to be a vocal champion for human rights for the rest of her life. The book weaves between the Roosevelts' personal life and the political struggles of the era. Franklin took office in the midst of the Great Depression, the worst financial meltdown the country had ever known. His presidential legacy is largely defined by how he and his administration tried to deal with the economic crisis in a series of policies collectively called the New Deal. While many of the New Deal policies made a major impact on the lives of working people (and people out of work), the country quickly faced another huge challenge: the rise of fascism and another World War in Europe. Roosevelt was eventually elected to an unprecedented fourth term in office, but he didn't live to see the of his term of the end of the war. The book concludes with a brief afterword reflecting on his legacy and a selection of some of his important speeches and writings.  

Is it any good?

As an introduction to a complex historical era, this book does a great job. Important concepts like fascism and laissez-faire economics are explained in easy-to-understand sidebars, while the major developments of World Wars I and II and the interwar period are covered in some detail. Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Making of America doesn't go too deeply into some of the more ambiguous and controversial elements of the New Deal and the G.I. Bill -- including the fact that the social programs Roosevelt pushed for were largely inaccessible to Black Americans -- but Kanefield often acknowledges when and why historians disagree over parts of the story.

The writing is effective and informative, using the appropriate vocabulary to make young readers familiar with terms like "internment," "economy," and "national debt." Overall, the book does a solid job of teaching the basic history, which will hopefully encourage young readers to do more research on the monumental events that are covered.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the legacies of the Great Depression and the World Wars discussed in Franklin D Roosevelt. How did these crises change President Roosevelt and the presidency itself?

  • Why were Roosevelt's "Fireside Chats" so important? Can you think of any present-day examples of how political leaders communicate with citizens?

  • Why do you think there are so many books and movies about presidents? What can we learn from studying political leaders from the past?

Book details

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For kids who love to learn about American history

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