It uses enlarged images from what appear to be 1920s cigarette cards to attempt a guide to 25 countries--from Albania to Ecuador, from Japan to Saudi Arabia. While the one-page country descriptions may well interest the target audience of 9-12-year-olds, the writing borders on the painful ("...Mexico is a officially Spanish-speaking nation...88.3 million people inhabit Mexico's 756,000 square miles of total geography.").
I found the facts nearly all accurate, but forming an unusual mix of geographic information, flag description, history, and country trivia. Since the flags likely date from the 1920s, several are completely out-of-date. And in a marvelous example of "the larger the type, the larger the typo", the title on one page reads "THALAND"!
On cannot condone such mis-representation even in a "children's book".
HOWEVER, for anyone interested in the kind of images that graced cigarette cards (the collectible premiums offered by some cigarette companies before and after the turn of the century), this book has 25 very nice full-page reproductions (almost 4 times actual size). They depict flag-bearers from 25 countries--a "typical" person (Canada's is a mountie, an Indian represents the USA) holds a large waving flag in front of a local background. The production values are high and the color graphics are easily scanned.
In summary, this book seems to be one in a series, trying to fill the "flag niche" by taking nice cigarette card images and forcing them to serve as illustrations in a flag book/country guide.
A. M. Schlesinger, Jr. provides a somewhat interesting introduction to this book concerning leadership. However, his name and reputation do absolutely nothing to enhance this book. My advice, check the "ole' ENCYCLOPEDIA for it will do as good a job explaining Hitler as this book and it is a whole lot CHEAPER.
Lutz neglects to explain the structures and laws under which political parties and elections operate. While the book uses "third-party" to describe minor parties, it fails to enumerate the two major parties and to indicate when they are in power. The greatest confusion comes in the section that describes members of the free-soil movement joining the new Republican Party in 1854. What were the major two parties before the mid-nineteenth century? Lutz doesn't tell the reader.
Lutz enumerates the "Third-Party Hurdles" which have limited the success of minor parties in the U.S. In this section, there is no description of the Electoral College. There is no explanation of "winner take all" elections. An understanding of the system's basic structure is fundamental to comprehending the challenges faced by minor parties. This material is not too advanced for the young adult reader, and the absence of such information promotes confusion rather than clarity.
Another shortcoming is the intermixing of terms. Descriptions of political parties, independent candidates, political factions, and social movements are treated synonymously. The book opens with a chapter dedicated to Ross Perot's 1992 presidential bid and Jesse Ventura's gubernatorial victory. Descriptions of Perot's personally funded candidacy and the Reform Party are commingled; no clarifications are made between individual candidates and the institutions of a political parties. Later in the book, abolitionists are described as a political party rather than a movement. While having many political implications, the abolitionist movement crossed many party and social lines.
Throughout the book, historical descriptions of political unfoldings are weak. Rather than presenting past actions or statements, Lutz attributes emotions and attitudes to significant political actors. In discussing conflicts between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, Lutz writes that President Washington "was greatly distressed over the conflict". There is no further mention of anything the president said or did in response. Rather the description continues that Jefferson "felt" and "believed" in the rights of men and that the ordinary people "hated" the Federalists (pp. 18-19). No writings, letters, or journals are cited to support these assertions. While these may be an accurate descriptions of their sentiments, it is not a sufficient substitute for describing their actions and public statements.
Imprecise language and inadequately defined terms leave readers guessing meanings throughout the book. A glossary provides definitions to only 12 terms. In one paragraph, readers are referred to the glossary for the term "political convention" but not referred anywhere to find out what or who "the Barnburners" and "Hunkers" might be. Phrases that might be unknown or unclear to young people are often used. To describe Roosevelt's entry in to the presidential race, Lutz only writes he "threw his hat in the ring" (p. 44). Unquantified descriptions such as "paupers' wages" and "unimaginable wealth" are meaningless to many as well (p. 33).
The most egregious issues of language are those that reflect racial and ethnic bias. The opening sentence of a section on the American party reads, "Yet another problem that arose during the 1840s and 1850s was that of record numbers of immigrants coming to this county." (p. 30) This anti-immigrant tone is further reflected in a discussion of the temperance movement, "More powerful were the large groups of immigrant drinkers. Theirs was the voice that moved the major parties." (p. 39) Certainly Irish and German immigrants were neither the central political force nor the only anti-temperance voice in the later half of the 19th century. Other potentially insensitive word usage includes "tramps" and "hoboes" instead of " the unemployed" and "homeless" (p. 34).
The History of Third Parties leaves more questions than answers for readers. The book meanders through U.S. political history uninformed and without focus. Look elsewhere for a history of minor parties and political movements in the U.S.
What's more, the book tells you very little about the actual workings of the court. It deals broadly with the court's historical importance which I personally found misleading since the title is "Your Government: How it Works: The US Supreme Court".
Arthur M. Schlesinger's name is shown on the cover as "Consulting Editor". My best guess is that any consulting Mr. Schlesinger did on this one was strictly from a distance.