Alexandria, VA – Review: The Presidents in Quirky Verse
Publisher: Fulton Books
Author: David Holland
Illustrations: Phil (Ken) McKenney
Reviewed by: Ralph Peluso, Literary Editor
Zebra Rating–5 Stripes
Political satire focuses on the errors, shortcomings, issues faced, and accomplishments of leaders without solutions. These days, it’s a widely accepted form of comic entertainment and is regularly used to advance political arguments. But it’s been around a long time. Early political satires such as Dante’s Divine Comedy and William Shakespeare’s Richard II roundly criticized authority figures of their time.
In The Presidents in Quirky Verse, David Holland and Ken McKenney use poetic verse and rhyme to satirically navigate over 230 years of U.S. Presidential history.
“Why poke a little fun at America’s presidents? Well, why not? Being able to laugh at the nation’s leaders is a sign of a free country. And laughter might help those leaders maintain a modicum of needed humility,” David states in the book’s introduction.
David and Ken spare no president from their assessment, from George Washington to current Number 46, and readers garner a bit of information about each president.
Holland says his choice of poetic verse is in his blood. “My mother was a longtime writer and editor for local papers in the Northern Neck of Virginia and Williamsburg. She often included a dash of poetry in her columns.”
Holland penned the quirky verses while McKenney sketched caricatures and illustrations to enhance the words and bring each president’s character to life. Attentive readers may acquire valuable tidbits to use as a party conversation starter or to foster an impression of advanced learnedness.
For example, William Howard Taft’s long-held ambition to serve as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was realized. His tenure on the court lasted more than twice as long as his presidency. James A Garfield was the only sitting member of the House of Representatives elected to the Oval Office. One of the more curious sketches is Thomas Jefferson flipping a basketball into a hoop as an homage to UVA’s NCAA men’s basketball title.
David Holland spent his career as a lawyer, consultant, federal employee, and military officer. His previous works include Vietnam a Memoir, Creating Money, and Who’d You Vote For… Er… Against? Holland lives in Alexandria. His alma maters include the University of Virginia, College of William & Mary, George Washington University, and George Mason University.
Phil McKenney (Ken) is a freelance cartoonist and illustrator working in books, magazines, newspapers, and courtroom illustrations for TV. He worked with David on Who’d You Vote For…. Ken performs a show, “Wild Men and the Dawn of Rock and Roll,” which provides an in-depth history of music through art, singing, and storytelling. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University.
Spending time with lesser-appreciated presidents and those who served before today’s divisive political climate may provide readers with a balanced appreciation of our nation’s leaders. Every president is a man of accomplishment and distinction. Many rose to the severe challenges of their times: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John. F Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan. Others may leave readers wondering, but they are all worth remembering.
The Presidents in Quirky Illustrated Verse acknowledges the gravity of the position, events, and conditions while staying away from partisan rankings, all with a bit of humor and a sense of rhyme! Zebra rating: 5 Stripes