Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Theodore Roosevelt: Champion of the American Spirit

Theodore Roosevelt: Champion of the American Spirit

Betsy Harvey Kraft
For ages 12 and up
Clarion, 2003   ISBN: 978-0618142644

There can be no doubt that Theodore Roosevelt was one of America’s most memorable and most loved presidents. There also can be no doubt that he cared very deeply for his people, especially for those who were poor, had few opportunities for betterment, and who were taken advantage of. For as long as he was in public office Theodore, or T.R. as he was often called, fought for the rights of such people and fought against those whose only interest was to line their own pockets. For his pains he was verbally attacked, ridiculed, and vilified. Nevertheless T.R. pressed on.

This was how T.R. was when he was confronted with a problem; he persisted doggedly until he ‘won.’ When he was young T.R had very severe asthma which made him a small, quiet little boy who spent much of his time reading. It was T.R’s father who impressed on the boy that he and he alone could beat the asthma. "You must make your body" Theodore Sr. told his son and that is just what T.R. did with long hours in the gym. T.R’s determination paid off and he became a hearty, strong and very athletic man, and more importantly, T.R did indeed beat his asthma.

When it came to his other dreams and wishes, T.R. was no less determined and he always seem to attack his pet projects with the most extraordinary energy and goodwill, turning many a job into an adventure. When T.R was the police commissioner for New York City he would go out at night and seek out policemen who were sleeping at their posts. When he was a Colonel in charge of his famous "Rough Riders" he broke all manner of rules and regulations to make sure that his men (of whom he was very fond and who relied on him) had enough to eat and decent supplies.

T.R’s energy extended to his relationship with his children with whom he played many wild and boisterous games and for whom he had great affection. He was a very ‘hands on’ father for the times and would write wonderful letters to his children when he was away from them.

This excellent portrait of T.R. describes his achievements and his many famous victories but it also gives the reader a wonderful picture of the man with his boyish enthusiasms, his squeaky little voice, his big smile, and his determined and ambitious personality. It seems that there was little that T.R. did in his life that he did not enjoy. He loved being president, and relished his role in the Cuban war; he delighted in being a father and gloried in his adventures in the "wild west" and in the other remote areas that he visited.

This is a wonderful introduction to one of America’s true larger than life heroes who stole hearts and who helped give America an image it could be proud of.