An illustrated history of assassination seems like an odd topic for a children’s book. It seems even stranger when the topic becomes the assassination of the President of the United States. But, let’s face it: In the quest to explore the world around them, kids don’t come equipped with filters for social niceties. Topics that adults consider taboo, such as the death and murder – especially when it applies to the leader of one of the most power nations in the world – are often on a level playing field with the color wheel, multiplication tables, and the alphabet.
“A Children’s Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination” is a book geared toward those difficult discussions. Author Bryan Young simplifies the topic in prose that explains and educates without talking down or being condescending to the audience. Focusing on each of the presidents who was either assassinated or had an attempt made against them, his prose introduces each leader and places them in both an understandable political and historical context. Shying away from a simple list of names and dates, he makes each history lesson engaging and entertaining.
Accompanying the text are illustrations by two artists. Erin Kubinek provides detailed imagery with a simple and comic flair that illustrates key points while complimenting and enhancing the unfolding stories. Some of the drawings are a little gruesome, but that only helps the audience to understand how messy the topic truly is. The second artist is Scout Young, the author’s daughter, who adds a presidential portrait from the point of view of the book’s intended audience. Her drawings add a degree of whimsy to an interpretation of how she sees the topic, and as one of the inspirations for the book, it’s quite fitting to include her work as a touchstone for children and parents exploring of the darker sides of American history.
As a bonus, the book ends with a short story that provides a taste of the author’s fiction style. As a fan of Young’s “Lost at the Con,” both the short story and the history book were a wonderful display of his versatility and talent.
Bryan Young’s “A Children’s Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination” is a book I highly recommend.