The Remarkable Ronald Reagan: Cowboy and Commander in Chief by Susan Allen
Published by Regnery Publishing ISBN 978-1-62157-038-7
Children's Book, $16.95
A few years ago my husband, two adult sons and I made a trip to Los Angeles, and one of the highlights was visiting the Reagan Presidential Library in the beautiful Simi Valley setting. Surrounded by stunning mountain vistas, it is the perfect place to host the library of the man who loved and is so associated with the California ranching landscape.
Susan Allen, wife of former Virginia governor George Allen, has written a children's book about our celebrated 40th president, The Remarkable Ronald Reagan- Cowboy and Commander in Chief.
Reagan was a man who personified much of what America is about. He came from a family of limited means to whom hard work and religious faith were important. Reagan, called "Dutch" by family and friends, was athletic, playing football and running track in high school.
Allen covers all of the touchstones of Reagan's life in chronological order- lifeguard, radio sports announcer, Hollywood actor, his two marriages and four children, becoming governor of California. She writes of his political beliefs in a manner than children can understand.
The memorable moments of Reagan's eight year presidency each get a page, with the quotes that are associated with them prominently mentioned. His first inauguration ("Those who say we are in a time when there are no heroes just don't know where to look"), the assassination attempt ("Honey, I forgot to duck"), his Berlin visit ("Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!")- they are all here.
The lush, lively artwork by Leslie Harrington perfectly captures the spirit of Ronald Reagan, and I particularly liked her renditions of his beloved Rancho del Cielo. She also reinforces the special relationship between Ronald and Nancy Reagan with her work.
At the end of the book, Allen lists "Highlights from a Life Well-Lived", with important dates at a glance. A terrific page titled "Ronald Reagan: Pen Pals" has reproductions of a few letters Reagan wrote to his seven-year-old pen pal, (a relationship that continued for five years) and would make for another great children's book if it hasn't already been done.
The last section is "Important Things Ronald Reagan Said", with funny, wise, and profound sayings from a man known as the Great Communicator. My one criticism of the book concerns this section. In the "Sometimes Funny" section, Allen includes a quote from Reagan's California years- "A hippie is someone who looks like Tarzan, walks like Jane and smells like Cheetah." This quote is not appropriate for a children's book, and the author (and editor) should not have included it here.
The Remarkable Ronald Reagan- Cowboy and Commander in Chief is a wonderful introduction to children who are interested in American presidents.