Friday, January 16, 2015

How Not To Run For President by Catherine Clark, 2012

When the middle school band is called to play for a presidential campaign rally, Aidan is right there with his clarinet, just in time to save the candidate’s life. Interviewed by the media, he speaks up in favor of the need to save jobs—like his mom’s, for instance.  Even though he’s in the middle of Little League season, for pete’s sake, the candidate convinces him to join her tour of the midwest. 
Problem 1: The candidate’s daughter HATES Aidan. Problem 2: What do you do when your whole life has been turned upside down and you can’t get away from the media? Problem 3: What’s a red-blooded American boy to do when he’s asked to play the clarinet on national TV and the local bully back home is giving interviews saying Aidan’s the nerd of the century?

I saw this at the library while searching for books for our winter break roadtrip. It immediately reminded me of Dan Gutman's The Kid Who Ran For President, so I snapped it up for my middle-school-aged brother. I figured hey, he'll lug it around on the trip and I'll steal it from him when I want to read it. That didn't really work out, because I still wound up wrenching it into my backpack by the end of the trip - my brother read it in the first three hours of the trip, then completely abandoned it into my care. He didn't even touch it for the rest of the trip. I managed to get a shrug-nod out of him when I asked if he liked it; he's hard to read. I'm interpreting that as "I liked it, but it wasn't amazing, I liked the Dan Gutman series better."

As for me, I enjoyed the book. It's not going on my top-ten favorites list, but it was interesting and funny. It's appropriate for anyone old enough to read it, and teaches quite a bit about the campaign trail. That was actually one of my favorite things about the book: it taught me about politics without ever getting overbearing. The book focuses on everything from hot button issues (both defining the term and discussing actual issues that fall under that category), to the constant popularity contest of the political campaign, to what it would really be like to be the first daughter (hint: no freedom). I've seen political campaigns from the point of view of the "consumer" (albeit a non-voting consumer) but I'd never really thought about what it would be like to be involved in one.

The characters were well done, if not exactly original. They're pretty standard stock for this type of book. I've read a ridiculously large amount of books involving a rebellious politician's kid, a tough PR guy or agent (or both), and a clueless accidental hero/heroine somehow swept up in the political scene. Aidan's popularity with voters is mainly due to the fact that he is an all-American kid. This is exactly what he is, from his clarinet playing to his ignorance of anything to do with politics, but even though he's a stock character I still liked him: he seems like a really nice kid, and I was definitely rooting for him throughout the book.

Is this a good book? Yes. Is this an amazing, groundbreaking book that you need to run out and buy right now? No. If you're older and looking for a nice, short read about politics and the political campaign, then check this out from the library. If you know a middle schooler or advanced elementary schooler who is interested in anything to do with political campaigns, then by all means buy this book and give it to them for their birthday. If they're looking to learn something, they'll be happy. If they're just looking to read a fun story, then they'll still be happy – and they'll still be learning something!

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