In their appealing young adult graphic novel, Luckinbill and Tait present the facts of President Theodore Roosevelt’s life in compact form, while conveying the spirit of the man and the times. We see an elderly Roosevelt, now frail, hard of hearing, and partly blind. Addressing a crowd in an auditorium, he looks back contemplatively over his life of action and accomplishments. He recounts his childhood, Harvard education, youthful frailties, love of nature, travel, and romances. Readers learn of his succession of jobs, beginning as a cattleman and ending as President. He consistently fights graft and corruption, often losing battles, and advocates for progressive causes.
Luckinbill portrays Roosevelt’s pride and his occasional humility. Many scenes cover his relationships with his six children. When he is no longer in office and World War I breaks out, he boasts that all his sons went off to fight, bravely. Toward the book’s end, Roosevelt learns that his son Quentin has died, shot down by the Germans. The past president becomes increasingly reflective over the course of the book, in the end admonishing Americans to both have a good time and to do something worthwhile.
Luckinbill wisely focuses on exemplary scenes to convey the breadth and depth of Roosevelt’s life. Teen readers may find the policy issues, covered quickly, remain too complex to grasp, and historians may feel the portrayal skims over empire building. But most readers will find the book an excellent introduction to a fascinating president. Tait’s illustrations are superb, showing movement consistent with the subject. He varies his perspective, sometimes zooming out for wide and aerial views, sometimes zooming in for details.