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As a person who has never loved studying history, this book is a game changer. While it is written for young adults, I would it approachable, well organized and beautifully written. WE NEED MORE BOOKS LIKE THIS ONE IF WE WANT TO HAVE A WELL EDUCATED COUNTRY.
Buy one for yourself and, if you can afford it, purchase a copy to your local school and library.
While it's billed as middle grades, Bringing Down A President is a great overview of Watergate for adults who never quite got the full story.
I'm not old enough to have lived through Watergate, and just about every US history class I've ever taken has covered 1946 to about 1990 in about three sentences. Thanks to the authors for clearing up a murky spot in my historical education.
As an adult reader, a few things didn't quite hit the mark for me. The "Fly on the Wall" labels weren't really needed--without those markings, it still would have been clear when the text was quoting historical figures.
Some of the pictures tried to be humorous, but they weren't too helpful in understanding what happened. In the line drawings, it was hard to tell apart many of the characters. I agree with the reviewers who said that photos would have been a better choice.
I think middle grades readers will enjoy the book a bit less than adults. They might pick it up to complete required research, but it probably wouldn't hold their interest as a voluntary read. Middle grades readers might be annoyed by sections explaining very simple concepts. At the same time, they might also be irritated that some key concepts are not explained.
3.5 stars rounded up--3 stars for middle grades readers, but 4 for adults who want a primer on the subject.
Thanks to NetGalley and Roaring Brook Press for giving me a DRC of this book.
Initially, I was struck by the humor. Balis and Levy brilliantly use their narrator, The Fly on the Wall, to untangle the complexity of Watergate and reveal the story with a subtle, sophisticated tongue-in-cheek delivery of the facts, straight from the Watergate tapes. The Fly makes fun of the Three Stooges aspects of the Watergate break-in while simultaneously teaching the audience what actually happened. The authors begin the book with a helpful introduction to the characters, and throughout, help us to feel that we have a glimpse of understanding for who they were as people. I appreciated this because there were so many implicated in the Watergate scandal, it was hard to recall the specifics of who they were and their relationships to Nixon. Tim Foley’s illustrations lend an almost graphic novel dimension to the book as they evoke our sense of how and why the characters were a part the Watergate cover-up.
But the more I read, the more the humor drained away, as it became all too apparent how similar the motives and actions were to those of the Trump presidency. Balis and Levy so effectively highlight the personal dramas that underlay the Watergate cover-up, how characters saw themselves as heros, as loyal defenders of Nixon and his belief that if the president does it, it isn’t illegal, that we can’t help but imagine the rationales of those around Trump. The most sobering thing of all was how the authors make clear that when Woodward and Bernstein broke the story of Nixon’s illegal activities, the American people, including Republican lawmakers, were appalled at what he had done. As these authors masterfully teach us a piece of our country’s history and our political systems, they also instruct us about the implications for our future.
So many adolescents and young adults haven’t heard of Watergate. For them, this book provides an essential history lesson that is extremely entertaining while also concisely explained and deeply researched. For adults, this book also offers a history lesson while raising our level of awareness of the psychologies behind Watergate and how we have progressed or devolved since that time.
I highly recommend this book for teens and adults alike.