Candidate bios for kids: Ooops, a few errors

Even as pundits were preparing to critique the performances of John McCain and Barack Obama in last night's debate, a San Francisco librarian was offering a few thoughts of her own on the biographies written about the two candidates for children.

The San Francisco Chronicle yesterday published a review by Susan Faust, a librarian at San Francisco's Katherine Delmar Burke School, of both Meghan McCain's book "My Dad, John McCain" and poet Nikki Grimes's "Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope."

Faust ultimately concludes her review by praising both books as "well-intentioned," but she has a few faults to find on to the road to that final assessment.

Megan McCain, she notes, "amplifies familiar territory" in her father's life (his rebellious youth, naval service, five years in Hanoi as a POW, four years as a US representative from Arizona) and lists his qualifications for the presidency.

But there are "some puzzling lapses," Faust writes. For instance, the family that McCain had before he married Meghan's mom Cindy goes unmentioned. It may not be easy for a child to think about a parent's first, failed marriage but, opines Faust, Megahn McCain "is a grown-up, a professional blogger who could have found a graceful way" to do so.

"Also MIA," she writes, "is anything about McCain's storied career as a senator," an omission that Faust feels gives "an oversimplified picture of a complex man."

Faust is more enthusiastic about "Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope," but here, too, notes a few problems. For one, she doesn't feel the book's structure (a boy's mother is answering her son's questions about Obama) always works. Then she notes a factual error: Obama says that as he ponders a run for the presidency he sees "the ghosts of his parents,/of Gramps and Toot,/ of Martin Luther King Jr. and JFK."

"All well and good," Faust writes, "except that Toot, Obama's Kansas-born grandmother, is alive and living in Hawaii."

Oh well.

"One hopes," Faust adds, "that kids will get more honesty and accuracy from the candidates themselves."

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