Friday, November 23, 2007

The Art of Ill Will

There are few things that can pack as strong a punch as a really good political cartoon. A simple drawing and a short caption can puncture egos, expose scandals, inflame public opinion, and affect elections. They are also a wonderful barometer of the mood of the country. One of our new books - The Art of Ill Will: the story of American political cartoons by Donald Dewey - is a fun way to learn more about the political history of the United States. Ranging from the Boston Massacre to the Patriot Act, the cartoons in this box satirize and memorialize some of the biggest historical events and political scandals of our nation. The cartoons range from the very funny to the very somber (check out Bill Mauldin's reaction to JFK's assassination on page 107).
The book begins with a lengthy introduction, and the cartoons are broken into general subject heading (Presidents - Wars & Foreign Relations - Ethnic, Racial and Religious Issues - Local and Domestic Politics - Business & Labor) and then each heading presents the cartoons in chronological order. I have a quibble with the indexing, however. The index only covers the text, not the actual cartoons, so if you are looking for a specific cartoonist you are out of luck. In addition, the table of contents only lists the subject headings, not the cartoons. Again, finding a specific illustration is very difficult. Other than that, however, this is a very interesting book. It would be a wonderful resource for teachers trying to convey the mood of a period to their students.

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