Political advance —of which presidential advance is a subset— is an art as well as a science. It’s not just important to move POTUS from point A to point B in the most efficient and secure way possible. What he does when he reaches point B is, well, the whole point of the exercise.
When the President and First Lady paid a “surprise” visit to the Capital City Public Charter School in Northwest Washington yesterday, the visit and the venue were weighted with significance. As was the book they decided to read to the kids.
When President Bush famously was trapped reading to kids at the Emma Booker Elementary School in Sarasota on 9/11, his text was The Pet Goat.
The Pet Goat is about a a young girl’s beloved pet whose voracious appetite starts the girl’s parents talking up the benefits of a puppy or a kitty. The girl and her goat are vindicated when the latter butts a car jacker around until the police can apprehend him.
From an educational point of view The Pet Goat was a home run because of the phased reading skills it was imparting. From an advance point of view it was a missed opportunity because it was only available as a textbook: Reading Mastery II: Storybook 1 by Siegfried Engelmann and Elaine C. Bruner.
The book the Obamas read —The Moon Over Star, written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Jerry Pinckney— is easily available for schools or parents who will want to get it for their kids.
Further, it makes a point and conveys a message. Here’s how Publishers Weekly describes it:
The 1969 moon landing is the locus for this inspired collaboration. Aston (An Egg Is Quiet) subtly inserts facts about the Apollo 11 mission into a broader, poetic story about the excitement it generates in an eight-year-old’s community. Mae, the narrator, begins the day in church with her grandfather, where everyone prays for the astronauts. Later, as she and her cousins build a play spaceship, she thinks more about her grandfather, a hardworking farmer who considers the space program a waste of money. By the end of the evening, the whole family has seen Neil Armstrong on the moon, and Mae’s quietly confided dream of going to the moon someday has reminded Gramps of the wonder in his own childhood (afterward, “A sigh in Gramps’s voice/ Made my heart squeeze”). In some of his finest watercolors to date, Pinkney (The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll) supplies both his characteristically affectionate, realistic portrayals of African-American families and lyrical views of the moon, giving visual form to what Aston evokes: awe. Ages 6-8.
Connoisseurs of advance —and readers of tea leaves— will also glean from this that President Obama is planning to do some serious celebrating come July when the fortieth anniversary of the first moon walk will provide a win/win opportunity to raise national morale while associating himself with JFK.