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May 22, 1856: A MEMBER OF CONGRESS FROM SOUTH CAROLINA WALKS INTO THE SENATE CHAMBER, LOOKING FOR TROUBLE.
That Congressman, Preston Brooks, was ready to attack Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts over remarks Sumner made slamming senators who supported slavery in Kansas. Brooks lifted his cane to beat Sumner, and here the action in the book stops, so that Steve Sheinkin can explain just where this confrontation started. In the process, he unravels the complicated string of events - the small things, the personal ones, the big issues- that led to The Civil War. It is a time and a war that threatened America's very existence, revealed in the surprising true stories of the soldiers and statesmen who battled it out.
"Two Miserable Presidents" is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
Chatty and accessible, this book does double duty: it introduces Civil War history for readers who don’t know much about it and supplies browsable commentary for those familiar with the big picture. Although Sheinkin apologizes for the dull textbooks he used to write in an author’s note, his experiences give him the authority to tell the history from the inside, and he supports his material with an extensive array of source notes. His background also gives him a store of lively, interesting anecdotes, which appear here. Beginning with a look at the role cotton played in the history, his fast-paced narrative is broken into short, tersely titled vignettes (“Brother against brother?” “The bloody road to Richmond”). There’s no in-depth analysis, but that doesn’t equate with simplistic. The horrors of slavery and battlefield slaughter are clear, as are achievements of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, John Brown, and many more... — Hazel Rochman