Monday, September 26, 2011

Nonfiction Monday Book Review: Kennedy Through the Lens: How Photography and Television Revealed and Shaped an Extraordinary Leader, by Martin W. Sandler (Walker & Co., 2011)

Recommended for ages 12 and up.

This handsome book equally suitable for young people or adults looks at one of our most popular presidents, John F. Kennedy, and the role photography and television played in shaping his presidency and his legacy.  An oversize book laid out with a series of two page spreads, the book provides not only fascinating text but a captivating graphic design.  Each two page spread has a different striking color scheme, with a quotation from JFK appearing in a colored box near the to of each spread.  And what president could be better suited to this photo essay format than the handsome, youthful Kennedy complete with his adorable children and beautiful wife?

Sandler explains how Kennedy was the first president to have an official White House photographer, and to permit informal photos throughout the White House, particularly private moments with his family.  He was also the first president to widely use color photography and to understand the power of television.  Reproduced are famous photos like John John hiding under the Oval Office desk, but also photos that were new to me such as a wonderful color photo of Caroline and John John dressed up in Halloween costumes and plastic masks, visiting their father in the Oval Office, and another with the two children leaping and dancing for their dad, who applauds them from a nearby chair.  And who can resist of a photo of JFK being nibbled on by one of Caroline's ponies?

But this book is not just a succession of charming photos of the Kennedys on land and sea.  There's also an overview of all key aspects of his life and presidency, from discussion of his privileged beginnings, his war service, the space race, Cuban Missile Crisis, civil rights, Vietnam, to his "secrets" (his extra-marital affairs and serious medical issues) to his assassination and legacy.  There's plenty of information for a school biographical report, but the book is also great for tweens and teens interested in history who would like to explore the life and legacy of this remarkable man.

Author Martin Sandler is the award-winning author of many books for young readers, including Lincoln Through the Lens and The Dust Bowl Through the Lens.
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Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Margo, I enjoyed your review. I love those informal White House photos, and it's so interesting that JFK was the first to have an official White House photographer. I look forward to reading this book.

Thanks for participating in Nonfiction Monday!

Tammy Flanders said...

Thanks for the recommendation. Having just watched the series The Kennedy's I'd be keen to read this for comparison of information vs. storytelling.
Apples with Many Seeds

shelf-employed said...

Just now catching up on my Nonfiction Monday reading. I know how television shaped the presidential election, but I never gave much thought to how photography shaped the Kennedy presidency. Thanks for sharing.

Fourth Musketeer said...

It's interesting that we don't see similar pictures of the Obama girls--we definitely don't get the candid family photos of that family the way the nation did of the Kennedys. A different time, I guess--they're much more concerned about the children's privacy than JFK seemed to have been while they were in the White House at least. Very different after Jackie left the White House with the children.