Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Our Eleanor: A Scrapbook Look at Eleanor Roosevelt's Remarkable Life

Our Eleanor: A Scrapbook Look at Eleanor Roosevelt's Remarkable Life

Candace Fleming
For ages 12 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2005   ISBN: 0689865449

Eleanor Roosevelt is probably one of the most controversial First Ladies who ever graced the rooms and halls of the White House. In a way it is surprising that Eleanor became such a strong force politically because she once was a very quiet and retiring person.

Eleanor had a lonely and difficult childhood which made her a shy, insecure and awkward young woman. From being dominated by her grandmother Eleanor went on to be dominated by her husband's mother, Sara Roosevelt. For Sara nothing Eleanor did was good enough and she bullied her daughter-in-law remorselessly. Eleanor's husband Franklin Delano Roosevelt did nothing to help his struggling wife, preferring to avoid personal conflicts as much as possible. It was in fact it his betrayal of their marriage vows which helped Eleanor begin down the road towards her own independence. Close friendships with other strong willed women, and the support of her husband's political manager further helped Eleanor gain the confidence she needed to fight for the causes that she thought were important.

As First Lady Eleanor did what was expected of her; she stood and shook hands for hours, she gave tea parties, she hosted the annual Easter Egg roll. But Eleanor also became her husband's eyes and ears, travelling all over the United States and the world to gather information for him. She also gathered information for herself, taking on the causes that mattered most to her and speaking out for those who needed a voice in Washington. Thus it was that Eleanor spoke out for the rights of Blacks and women; thus it was that she fought for the integration of the military; thus it was that she fought for the rights of working men and women.

In this remarkable book the author has brought together a wealth of information about Eleanor Roosevelt, presenting her story chronologically but also integrating special sections about particular topics of interest. Throughout the book the reader will find quotes from Eleanor's writings and speeches along with quotes from other people who were a part of her life. The author does not present Eleanor as a paragon; she was human and she made mistakes. There can be no doubt that at times she struggled with being a mother and a wife and perhaps she could be a little overenthusiastic about her causes without realizing how her drive affected others. Still, there can be no doubt that Eleanor Roosevelt was indeed a "remarkable" woman and this book is a superb tribute to her.

Throughout the book readers will find annotated photographs of Eleanor and the people and places in her life. The scrapbook format of the book makes it easy to read and to dip into at random.