THE CAMPAIGN, by Leila Sales and Kim Balacuit, Harry N. Abrams; Illustrated Edition, Sept. 29, 2020, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
A 12-year-old gets involved with local politics in Leila Sales and Kim Balacuit’s The Campaign.
For 12-year-old Maddie Polansky, the only good part of school is art class. And though she’s never paid much attention to politics, when she learns that the frontrunner for mayor of her city intends to cut funding for the arts in public schools, the political suddenly becomes very personal. So Maddie persuades her babysitter, Janet, to run for mayor against Lucinda Burghart, art-hating bad guy. Soon, Maddie is running a campaign and learning the ins and outs of politics —Synopsis provided by Harry N. Abrams
The Campaign is sort of a novel/graphic novel hybrid. While most of the story plays out in words, the action is punctuated by black-and-white drawings. Both elements are so well integrated, the book wouldn’t work without both. Kim Balacuit’s illustrations really compliment author Leila Sales’ humor, and vice versa.
One of the things that really stands out is how well Sales no only explains but demonstrates how the political process and government in general works. From checks and balances to how close to a polling station you can campaign, she covers a lot of ground. Given our looming election, it’s extremely timely.
Beyond the political elements, The Campaign features themes of friendship and fitting in. As the book progresses, Maddie learns how much her own perceptions of classmates are skewed. She’s a fun character to follow, as is most of the supporting cast.
My major quibble with this book is Maddie’s parents who are in their own little worlds. They don’t really seem to care much about anything except their own weird pet projects. They sort of feel like they belong in a different story.
The Campaign is a fast and humorous read that is a great option for both learning and enjoyment.
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