What's the Big Deal About Elections

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
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Info-packed, kid-friendly look at voting in the USA.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Basic info about voting and government at city, state, and federal level, and how laws are passed to fix problems. Explanations of specific vocabulary (e.g., "candidates," "elected officials," "primaries"). Institutions like Supreme Court, Electoral College explained simply. Fascinating historical facts, like why we vote on a Tuesday in early November -- it was the best day for churchgoing farmers to get to far-away polls that didn't conflict with market day, and it was after the harvest season but before the harsh winter weather set in -- and who got the right to vote when. Native Americans weren't granted American citizenship till 1924, didn't have right to vote in all states till 1964. Back matter includes voting-related timeline from Colonial period to 1971 (when voting age was changed from 21 to 18). Author's note includes short bibliography. 

Positive Messages

"Doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, strong or scrawny, tall or short. Everyone has an equal say in the voting booth." "Elections are a fair way to make decisions as a group." "The votes we cast matter."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lots of famous and not-well-known leaders in U.S. history and government mentioned and pictured, including George Washington Albright, who was born an enslaved person and went on to be elected a state senator in Mississippi. One entertaining spot in the book talks about "the peaceful transfer of power" and notes what some presidents did after they were out of office. It shows President George W. Bush, who became a painter, holding his paintbrush and palette. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parent need to know that What's the Big Deal About Elections is another excellent, engaging nonfiction book about the United States from the team of author Ruby Shamir and illustrator Matt Faulkner, who brought us What's the Big Deal About First Ladies and What's the Big Deal About Freedom. This one is packed with information and historical tidbits about the U.S. electoral system and government structure at the city, state, and national level. It sends a strong, kid-friendly message about why voting is important and a privilege that some -- including women, African Americans, and Native Americans -- had to fight hard for. 

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What's the story?

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT ELECTIONS presents the history of voting and how it's done in the United States and explains how government and elections work at the city, state, and national level, from electing a mayor or school board members to electing the country's president. Fun historical facts and anecdotes about politicians and leaders mix with pages showing kids and adults standing up for what they believe in, wearing "Vote" T-shirts and putting up signs like "No More Stinky Pollution!" 

Is it any good?

This information-packed picture book does a great job of explaining elections and the history of voting rights in the United States amid lively illustrations sure to draw kids in. What's the Big Deal About Elections takes on a potentially dry subject and makes it entertaining and compelling. Kids will get the message that voting is important and pick up a lot of fun historical facts about the country and its leaders.

Interspersed with the giddy enthusiasm about voting are some notes about kids getting involved in serious issues. For example: "When African Americans were denied the chance to participate in elections, children protested for the rights of their parents and grandparents. In so doing, they were marching for their very own futures too." 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how voting is presented in What's the Big Deal About Elections. Why is voting important? 

  • Can you see the connection between voting for something at your school and voting for a mayor of your city or president of your country? Why do regular people and families need a representative in government? 

  • Even though you can't vote till you're 18, what can you do in your school and your community to stand up for what you believe? 

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