1 out of 4 stars
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Kristina Moses Sparks wrote P is for Politics for her six-year-old grandson "who wanted to learn about President Trump and the red guys [Republicans] and blue guys [Democrats]." While President Trump is never mentioned by name, the illustrations of the unnamed president bear a very flattering resemblance to him. (Ironically, he ends up looking more like a young, blonde Bill Clinton.) However, Trump - or rather his fans - is present in the "MAGA" political ideologies, which are the backbone of this book.
The book focuses on conversations between two young children on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Paul is a Democrat, and Polly is a Republican. Despite their differences, they're friends. Having respectful and meaningful conversations/debates with people who have different beliefs is a central theme. This is what I appreciated most about the book. She claims that debates are important because they allow us to see both sides of an issue, enabling us to make informed judgments. I completely agree with her on this front; debating is somewhat of a lost art. I like that she's encouraging the next generation to rediscover meaningful discourse.
P is for Politics is divided into two sections. The first gives an overview of the American government, with an emphasis on the importance of voting. She stressed the importance of voting for Congress, which I appreciated as the presidential elections often overshadow the rest (especially for children). Compared to the second half, this section is relatively unbiased. However, the amount of stress she puts on "legal citizens" during the Bill of Rights section is a bit pointed. She also makes some comparisons between the government and parents - both make rules you should respect and follow - highlighting a subtle theme throughout the book: the government is truly for the people by the people, and it should be trusted and respected. I had to wonder if the author would say the same if she'd been writing when Democrats had both the presidency and a majority in the Senate.
The second half covers a wide range of political issues. Sparks did a nice job of breaking down complicated topics into bite-sized chunks that should be easy for children to digest. It covers a wide range of issues, including abortion, free education, immigration, guns, and free speech. Each topic gets four pages. The first page consists of 1-2 paragraphs that explain the issue; the second page has the children debating (with speech bubbles); the final two pages show Paul and Polly finding common ground and agreeing with one another. While I appreciate that the author wanted to show that we can find common ground through debate, it never shows the Republican altering her viewpoints at all. I realize the book wants to show Republicans in the best light, but I really dislike that Paul always radically changes his beliefs.
For one, I think this sets an unrealistic expectation for debates. Most of the time, they don't end with someone instantly changing their minds. It would be more realistic if Paul, rather than agreeing, said something like: "I never thought of it that way," or "I don't know if I agree, but I see your point." Perhaps I'm asking too much of a children's book, but because this is such a central theme, I think it's important to show that you can have a good political discussion without getting people to agree with you. Secondly, I feel like this sort of warps the "debate is good because you see both sides" message because it turns into: "Debates are good because you'll get to prove your point, and they'll see how wrong they are."
The illustrations are colorful and detailed. The dialogue is a bit difficult to read because of the small font size (at least in the PDF version). There's a simple rhyming scheme in most of the dialogue, but it comes across as forced. The cadence is erratic, and the desire to make things rhyme makes some of the dialogue awkward and unnatural. For example, on page 20, Paul says: "A baby's death to a mother is what pro-choice gives?" I feel like this makes it even more difficult for a child to understand such complex issues. The numerous grammar errors throughout make it difficult to get through.
With a good round of editing and reworking the dialogue to sound more natural, I might give this a 2-star rating. However, as it stands, I give this book 1 out of 4 stars. Sparks has some nice messages here, but I think their delivery could have been stronger. I also feel a little conflicted about teaching children what to think about political issues before they're old enough to really understand it. If it goes through some more editing, I suppose I would recommend this for very conservative parents who wish to educate their children about sensitive political issues.
P is for Politics
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