How the US government works, in 34 pithy pages

Syl Sobel doesn't profess to offer academic credit for plowing through his book, "How the US Government Works" (Barron's). After all, it isn't of the two-pound-tome variety - usually toted around by high-schoolers and college undergraduates. This book was written for his first-grade daughter.

Sobel says he and his daughter were reading a newspaper article about the US government, when she asked, "Daddy, can you make a book for me about how the US government works?"

"Since I'm director of publications for a federal government agency, I figured that was something I could do," he says.

So the director of the Publications and Media Division of the Federal Judicial Center decided to write his first children's book.

The clear, simplified language gives children a guide that untangles the web of complexity behind the workings of our democracy. An abundance of illustrations and charts helps to engage the young audience.

Sobel first explains why government is necessary: "Can you imagine what your school would be like if [it] ... had no principal, no class parents, no people who worked in the office...? Who would be in charge? Who would help with field trips?"

He goes on to discuss the three distinct branches of our federal government, and the extension of the judicial branch throughout the country by our federal court system. How government officials are elected and appointed is also explained, as is the idea that government employees work for the people.

After publishing this book last November, Sobel's younger daughter asked for a book on "cool things about presidents." Which means - you guessed it - "Presidential Elections and Other Cool Facts" came out in February.

Both books join a swatch of similar titles published around this election season, helping young people get an early start on understanding the nuanced ways of our government.

Others include: "A Mice Way to Learn About Government: A Curriculum Guide" (Vacation Spot Publishers), "Woodrow for President" (Vacation Spot Publishers), and "History of the Republican Party (Your Government & How It Works)" (Chelsea House Publishers).

These books also provide a quick refresher for adults who may have a hard time remembering everything they learned back in their high school civics courses.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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