Truth & Honor: The President Ford Story
By Lindsey McDivitt; illustrated by Matt Faulkner
Sleeping Bear Press; July 2020. Ages 6-10
My second picture book biography was published recently and I’d love to tell you a bit about it, beginning with the all-important question—
Why share President Gerald R. Ford’s story with today’s kids?
I’ve spoken with parents and teachers challenged by today’s political climate when talking with young people about the upcoming presidential election.
–How to discuss the desirable qualities of an American president and leader of the free world?
–How to focus on values such as honesty, integrity and caring for others?
This picture book biography offers an opportunity to talk about these questions using a true story with engaging text and beautiful illustrations.
I was just a teen in 1974 when Gerald R. Ford became president. But I well remember the relief of his presidency after Watergate—so much tension and so many lies from President Nixon and others in his administration.
President Ford’s openness was a much needed antidote, instilling renewed confidence in a caring government. One “of the people, by the people, for the people.”*
Also, Truth and Honor: The President Ford Story shows a long life well-lived. I’m always drawn to people who meet challenges in late life that their earlier experiences prepared them for.
—Take a quick peek at a one minute book trailer video!
I read extensively about Gerald Ford’s presidency to gain a clear idea of his personal qualities. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids provided invaluable resources and I was honored to speak with his son Mike Ford. As president, vice president and longtime congressman from western Michigan, Gerald Ford’s sterling character stood out.
Terrific quotes dot the text:
“I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our Government but civilization itself.”
Gerald R. Ford, Jr.
Remarks upon being sworn in as President of the United States,
August 9, 1974.
I was surprised to learn Gerald Ford voted consistently for civil rights and voting rights legislation, often in opposition to his party. He cared about citizens of all colors. He supported immigrants. The Vietnam War was ending during his time as president and he organized the rescue of refugees from South Vietnam.
That well-worn joke about Ford’s clumsiness? It was triggered by one slip down the wet steps of Air Force One. Jerry, a former college football player, was actually our most athletic president!
And, did you know? Gerald Ford was actually born Leslie King Junior!
My story decisions—engaging young people
I began with Ford as president, and I ended with him at that same desk “piled high with problems.” I knew I wanted to end with this quote:
“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.”
President Gerald R. Ford, August 9, 1974.
In between I showed what shaped Jerry Ford growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Young people can connect with his experiences as a child, teen and young adult. It felt important to shine a spotlight on how the values of hard work, honesty and compassion were instilled.
It is challenging to condense all the research on a complex life into a non-fiction picture book of perhaps 1500 words! Lyrical language is also important—it must be a pleasing read-aloud for both adults and children.
Of course, gorgeous artwork by award winning illustrator Matt Faulkner contributes greatly to engaging young people!
I knew kids would like the dramatic WW II scene where Jerry almost slid off the ship’s deck into the sea, saving himself at the last second! And of course, the Ford family dog named “Liberty.” Also, Jerry had a stutter as a child—making him very reluctant to be called on in class. I learned recently that meant a lot to one child reader.
Figurative language spices up the text!
Adding similes and metaphors to Truth and Honor added “color.” Gerald Ford was the only president to grow up in Michigan, the Great Lake state. Fortunately I’d lived in Michigan and enjoyed a research trip to Grand Rapids.
Examples of Michigan related figurative language includes–
“The desire for the American Dream flowed through the school as strongly as the Grand River flowed through town.”
And…“He became known for working with the Democrats, bridging the gap the way the Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan’s peninsulas.”
***There are Free Resources for Truth and Honor: The President Ford Story
–An extensive free teacher’s guide with lessons around reading comprehension, writing, language and social studies, and more. (Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press–at the page, click on “download now.”)
–Also, eight videos of myself and illustrator Matt Faulkner speaking about our processes of creating the text and artwork. (Produced by the Gerald R. Ford Foundation. Each about 10 minutes long.) Illustrations by Matt Faulkner used here with permission.
–A letter to young readers from the four children of Gerald R. Ford is in the back of the book, along with a timeline of his life.
***Truth and Honor: The President Ford Story is available wherever books are sold. Please click here for options.
NOTE: Covid times are tough times for promoting new books. Please consider:
–writing a review of the book on Amazon or Goodreads
–sharing the cover image & your comments on social media
–asking your local library to order the book
Thank you and stay well! Lindsey