My 10-year-old son Daniel is a lover of history and historical fiction. I share the same love and it’s fun to read books together. Daniel loved Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by the same author, James L. Swanson, and was eager to read The President has Been Shot about the Kennedy Assassination.
Daniel came into this book knowing nothing about the Kennedy assassination. We talked about this being a defining event of his grandparents’ childhood. Not brought up in the book, but something I always thought was interesting was comparing the Kennedy and Lincoln assassination. How they were almost 100 years apart, how Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln and Lincoln had a secretary needed Kennedy, etc. Daniel really liked that.
I liked that the book started off about John F. Kennedy’s life and childhood, and a general summary of his presidency. That was important for a ten-year-old like Daniel who didn’t’ really know much about Kennedy at all. The book then detailed the assassination, pursuit of Lee Harvey Oswald, and Kennedy’s funeral.
Both The President Has Been Shot and Chasing Lincoln’s Killer were marketed as Young Adult. Daniel is an advanced reader and had no problem with Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. The President Had Been Shot was a higher reading level with many large words, and Daniel had a harder time with it. Daniel also had a hard time with the violence of the assassination. Lincoln’s was much “cleaner.” The book describes how Kennedy’s brains were basically blown out and all over the car and Jackie and it comes up a few times. Daniel and I usually flip flop read where he will read a page and then I will read a page, but I read through the entire assassination and edited it to take out the brains. He already looked queasy about it all.
Daniel had a moment while reading the book. He read and saw a picture of JFK in his office with his children. John-John wanted to go with him to Texas and JFK left a paper to sign when he got back. Daniel said, “But he’s never coming back,” and he pushed the book aside and looked really sad. History hit him at that point. JFK was a real man, a father with children who left and never came home. Daniel also was upset at the funeral when John Jr. asked “Where’s my daddy” and Jackie started to cry. “He’s only three and he probably doesn’t understand what happened to his Daddy,” said Daniel and then he had another moment of sad contemplation. He looked ready to cry. I was emotional reading that scene as a wife and mother as well.
Daniel really like reading about the pursuit of Lee Harvey Oswald and he also really liked all of the pictures and graphics. In particularly he liked the maps showing the motorcade and Oswald’s escape route. He also liked the graphic showing where they found Oswald’s finger prints. He thought Oswald was not a very good assassin compared to John Wilkes Booth. I didn’t remember details of the pursuit and arrest at all so it was interesting to read it again. I only remembered that Oswald was himself assassinated. Daniel had no idea that was going to happen and he was shocked.
I also didn’t know that President Lyndon B. Johnson wrote two handwritten letters to JFK’s two children the night of the assassination. I was touched.
“For the rest of their lives, people would remember where they were when they first heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot.”
“It was done. Four days of blood and death, of mourning and drums, were over. America would never be the same.”
Overall, The President Has Been Shot was a fascinating look into the life, presidency, and assassination of John F. Kennedy. It’s a good book for kids to learn history, but it really is a young adult novel – ten was too young for Daniel to read on his own. Reading it together I was able to explain vocab words and edit out some of the more disturbing descriptions of the association that would be fine for a young adult.
Book Source: Amazon.com