Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Making of America

Abrams. (Making of America: Bk. 5). Oct. 2019. 256p. bibliog. chron. notes. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781419734021.
Gr 6-8–The latest installment in the “Making of America” series follows Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s journey from Hyde Park scion to a seminal player on the world stage. About half the text explores his early life, while the remainder focuses on his administration and legacy. Emphasis is placed on Roosevelt’s reorientation of the Democratic Party, groundbreaking policies, landmark shift in the relationship between the federal government and its citizens, and push for a globally relevant America. Despite a glut of photographs and tangential sidebars, Kanefield’s colloquial narrative serves as a sprightly introduction. While the text prefers primary sources to editorial commentary, it doesn’t shy away from the president’s complicated private life (including his protracted affair with Lucy Mercer), political mishaps (his attempt to pack the Supreme Court with six additional justices), or ethical shortcomings (say, a long-standing alliance with racist Southern Democrats). Since dates are often omitted and footnotes nonexistent, conscientious readers will find themselves mining back matter, including a comprehensive time line and textual notes, to aid their understanding. Kanefield’s attention to Eleanor Roosevelt’s formative influence on progressivism, especially in relation to race and gender, is also worth noting.
VERDICT Neither hagiography nor a hatchet job, this evenhanded overview of FDR walks a middle path perfect for middle grade readers. A commendable addition to school and public library collections.

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