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"Yo, Millard Fillmore!"

Want a fast, fun, and easy way to learn about the U.S. presidents? Check out a new book, Yo, Millard Fillmore!, from Millbrook Press. It's a crazy approach to learning that kids will love!

Picture this....

A man is wearing a tie with a fishing lure on it. The tie lure is on a polka-dotted background, the same material that is being used by a tailor to make a suit. The tailor also happens to have a side job. He owns a gas station, where (picture this!) he uses the gas nozzle to fill more and more cups full of gas. Now in place of a handle, each cup has an ear -- an ear that just happens to be pierced....

An odd little story? Total nonsense? Insanity?

Right on all counts! But it's an odd little story that can help your students (and you!) learn the names of the presidents of the United States.

Now, think back to the crazy story...

  • What's on the man's tie? a tie lure [THINK: President John Tyler]
  • What material is the tie made of? It was made from polka-dotted material [THINK: President James K. Polk]
  • Who's making a suit out of the polka-dotted material? the tailor [THINK: President Zachary Taylor]
  • What's the tailor's side job and what does he do with the gasoline nozzle? He runs a gas station, where he uses the nozzle to fill more and more cups. [THINK: President Millard Fillmore]
  • What's unusual about the cups? The cups have pierced ears for handles. [THINK: President Franklin Pierce]

Using this goofy story line as your guide, you've just learned -- in order -- five of the presidents of the United States.

And that's just one of the surprising things about Yo, Millard Fillmore! (And All Those Other Presidents You Don't Know), new from Millbrook Press.


"INCREASE your self esteem," implores George Washington. "DAZZLE your teachers," beseeches Franklin Delano Roosevelt. "GUARANTEE yourself a life of SUCCESS and HAPPINESS," entreats President William Howard Taft.

Most Americans, if asked, would stumble after reciting the names of the first few presidents of the United States. But author Mark Alvarez, using an idea originated by Will Cleveland, has created a wacky story line that'll have kids (and even their parents and teachers) reciting in order the names of all 41 presidents.

Now, it might take a little patience to catch onto what Alvarez is doing here -- but once you've tuned in to the nonsense of it all, it will begin to make sense. And kids will love it! Soon they'll know America's presidents forwards and backwards without even trying. And, better yet, they'll never forget them.

Give it a try, Alvarez pleads in the introduction to the book. "Trust us. Unless you're TBD (totally brain dead), your brain can do amazing things. We'll show you how."

"One little word of caution!" Alvarez adds. "After the first three cartoons, you'll wonder whether we, the authors, aren't TBD. We're not. We're geniuses. But it is going to take getting through the first ten cartoons for you to see why."

And once you've latched onto the concept, you'll be eager to check out another book in the series, Yo, Sacramento!, which will have you reciting the names of the 50 state capitals in no time at all.

Illustrator Tate Nation is a willing participant in all the insanity. His illustrations are memorable -- and instrumental -- companions to the Yo! series. Part comic book and part editorial art, Nation provides the picture cues that capture Alvarez's foolishness.


Learning the names of the presidents in order isn't the only thing this book has going for it. While Alvarez encourages readers in a special "Boredom alert!" to "read only the cartoons and their captions," the book also includes a few paragraphs of information about each of the presidents. The information includes highlights of each man's presidency and a trivia fact or two. For example, did you know that more states were added to the United States during the tenure of Benjamin Harrison than during anyone else's presidency? Or that Harrison was the grandson of a former president? And that he was the last in a long line of presidents to sport a beard?

The book also includes tricks for learning the dates of each president's term in office and a Jeopardy!-style trivia game to try after you've read the book cover to cover.

Yo, Millard Fillmore! and Yo, Sacramento!, by Will Cleveland and Mark Alvarez, illustrated by Tate Nation, are available through your local bookseller or through the books' publisher, Millbrook Press, 2 Old New Milford Road, Brookfield, CT 06804 (phone: 800-462-4703).

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © Education World


Last updated 02/14/2012