Title: Being Teddy Roosevelt
Author: Claudia Mills
Illustrator: R.W. Alley
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Concepts: child schooling and work, savings, wants/needs
Review: Fourth-grader Riley O’Rourke desperately wants to learn how to play the saxophone. Unfortunately, Riley only has $5.50 to his name, and his mother cannot afford to buy – or even rent – a saxophone for him. When his teacher assigns a biography book report and Riley selects Teddy Roosevelt as his subject, Riley learns about a president who didn’t let obstacles stand in his way. With Roosevelt’s bully spirit as an inspiration, Riley begins brain-storming ways he can earn and save money to buy himself a used saxophone. But there aren’t many jobs out there for a fourth-grader…
This chapter book presents children with a protagonist who faces obstacles head-on and finds ways to meet his goals. He is surrounded by a colorful cast of characters in his schoolmates, who also learn and grow based on the inspiration found in their biography book report subjects – Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth I, and Helen Keller. The concepts of problem-solving, perseverance, and friendship are all on display in this book, along with economic concepts as the children pool their ideas and resources together to help Riley obtain his saxophone. Whether it is running a yard sale and donating the proceeds to the saxophone fund or simply lending support when confronting the music teacher with a question on instrument lessons, everyone comes through for Riley in the end to help him attain his dream.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children