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Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the Civil War
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Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the Civil War

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  655 ratings  ·  118 reviews

That Congressman, Preston Brooks, was ready to attack Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts over remarks Sumner made slamming senators who supported slavery in Kansas. Brooks lifted his cane to beat Sumner, and here the action in the book stops, so that Steve Shei
Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published July 7th 2009 by Roaring Brook Press (first published July 22nd 2008)
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Start your review of Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the Civil War
Deborah Markus
Oct 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once upon a time, there was a stupid smart girl. That is, she did really well on all those "How Smart Are You?" tests; but she often had trouble in school, because she couldn't learn anything unless she was genuinely interested in it.

Eventually, she dropped out and wandered around until she signed with a literary agent, because it turns out that learning about stuff you're really interested in can be a paying proposition if you promise to write a book about it afterwards.

But she felt a little d
History was never my strongest curriculum area. It was just list after list of names, places, and dates that tended to jumble together as the lists grew. Nothing was ever "alive" enough for me to gain an actual understanding of the events--what happened, who was involved, and, most importantly, why things happened.

Steve Sheinkin has changed that, first with King George: What Was His Problem? and now with Two Miserable Presidents. Combining historical fact with little-known anecdotes, quotes fro
Ed Erwin
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
The title led me to believe this would be a compilation of only the odd stories that don't make it into textbooks. Maybe a bit like "Lies My Teacher Told Me". Instead, it is a full, but condensed, history of the civil war from start to finish. It is told in an engaging way, with an emphasis on the stories of individual people, especially those whose stories were a little unusual or exciting. Some of those stories probably won't make it into school books, but they should.

This was shelved in the c
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How does he do it? I never would have been the least bit interested in this subject if not for prior positive experience with the author, but I am thankful to have read this. Recommended.
"[Q]uestions in a math textbook used by Southern students during the war:

1. A Confederate soldier captured eight Yankees each day for nine days. How many Yankees did he capture in all?
2. If one Confederate soldier can whip seven Yankees, how many Confederate soldiers can whip forty-nine Yankees?
Margo Tanenbaum
"History--with the good bits put back!"

The author's website describes these books as "guaranteed-never-boring history books, packed with all the true stories and real quotes he was never allowed to use during his career as a textbook writer."

Despite the comical look of the series, Sheinkin includes a serious historical overview of the war, which highlights all the key events leading up to the war, from the Fugitive Slave Act to John Brown, the Dred Scott decision, and the Lincoln-Douglas debate
Roxanne Hsu Feldman
I thoroughly enjoyed this treatment of The American Civil War. Along the way, I couldn't help exclaiming aloud how stupid and how senseless some of the battles were. The book makes all the generals and the two presidents, especially Lincoln, seem completely incompetent. I wonder if there hasn't been quite a bias here: in order to "entertain" the young readers, the book is slanted heavily toward magnifying the aspects that are ludicrous about the War. It might be true that all wars are senseless ...more
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author used to write textbooks, and was frustrated by the dry style of writing that he was required to use. So he saved all the unusual, funny, amazing, and surprising stories and quotes that he couldn't use in textbooks, and wrote his own highly readable book about the Civil War.

The two presidents were Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, who was the president of the Confederate States. But the stories aren't so much about them as they are about the men, boys, and even a few women who fou
Feb 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
It's really clear here that Sheinkin was a textbook writer - not that this is dry, but that it is written in an almost dispassionate, just-the-facts way. And I'd take issue with the "Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You" subtitle. Nothing here is new to me - but it is presented in a coherent, comprehensive way. It's not especially deep, but it does touch on almost every event. That's what's most impressive.
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-faves
Two Miserable Presidents is a great book! Steve Sheinkin tells you everything from the civil war that you did not know. It is funny and it explains all about the civil war; from Frederick Douglass to John Brown, I could not think of another event or person that this book did not cover. And it talks from every perspective. It talks about the perspectives of the soldiers, the presidents, the generals, even an artist who was painting a portrait of Lincoln at the time. I recommend this book for 4th ...more
Elyse  Quiroz
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was absolutely amazing with its fun facts about the Civil War! The genre of this book is historical fiction (obviously). *SPOILER ALERT* The book begins before the Civil War with the Preston Brooks almost beginning to hit Charles Summer. Why? Well Charles Summer was the man who did rip the country apart with the Civil War. The book gives a thirteen step guide to how tear the country apart. Step one: Plant cotton. This step shows how Eli Whitney had his big chance to met Catherine Gree ...more
Jun 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 10-12, war, nonfiction
This is a good book for reluctant readers to get some Civil War history. There are some lightly humorous anecdotes and the book is written in brief factoidy chapters.

The cartoons are cute, but might need some context. Anyone who can tell me who the "not Lincoln" president is on the cover? This is what I mean by lack of context.

The text is well sourced, and there were lots of facts I knew and lots of facts I'd never heard before. Could be interesting to use in a classroom to verify facts.
Dave Hoff
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another good kid's history book, that grandpa enjoyed. People I hadn't heard of, like Robert Smalls, a black naval pilot, who took control of Confederate ship, Planter, and turned it over to the Union, and Harriet Tubman who guided Union ships up the Combahee River and showed the sailors Southern warehouses & plantation houses to destroy. Much better read than the one on the Winning of the West. ...more
The doctor checked this out for SkyGirl because she got Battle Cry, a Civil War board game, for Christmas. She, SkyGirl, wanted to know more about the Civil War. I started reading it and it was great. For a quick review of all the important battles and events around the Civil War. And it's humorous, clever and well-written.
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is a much easier and fun way to learn about the Civil War than just reading a boring, old, textbook. READ IT!
Margaret Boling
6/27/13: Excellent! Completely changed the way I picture the Civil War. Made the hunger, foul food, and diversity of representation much more real to me.
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
This book was fantastic!
Claire L
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5!! This book was very good. It was so interesting that I almost got a paper to write down all the cool interesting facts that I found in this book
I really wanted to like this more, having read two of his other histories for kids and teens.
Unfortunately, I kept running into things that were distracting, like errors in the names of people. For instance, Union general Irvin McDowell becomes "Irving" and Confederate general Joseph Johnston becomes two separate people in the index [Johnston and Johnson], either due to error or typos that didn't get corrected.
Several "autobiographical" accounts are taken at face value to provide cool but dubio
Valerie McEnroe
If you can only have one book on the Civil War, this is it. No one tells this story better than Steve Sheinkin. In fact, I would say, this is Sheinkin's best work. Given his portfolio of excellent nonfiction books for kids, this isn't a statement to take lightly.

Like his similar book King George: What Was His Problem?, Sheinkin uses humor in just the right dose to make this an easy, entertaining, light read about the Civil War. And yet, he manages to cover everything. His writing is so masterf
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm so glad I read this book. Engaging. Entertaining. Informative. Rewarding on so many levels. I truly didn't want this book to end. I wanted Steve Sheinkin to keep on telling me about all that happened next in American history.

I am definitely looking forward to reading Sheinkin's other two related books: King George: What Was His Problem?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the American Revolution AND Which Way to the Wild West?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You Abou
Lawrence Jia
Two Miserable presidents is definitely one of the most entertaining history books I have ever read. I usually don’t enjoy reading long history books because they often contain pieces of info that are most certainly relevant however are extremely boring and doesn’t make me want to remember it and I usually forget. However this book changed that perspective. There were so many little details such as what a person’s nickname was and the funny backstory behind it or the funny pictures that portrayed ...more
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was informative, for it taught me a lot of information based on the civil war. However, I didn't give this book a high rating since I do not have an affinity for nonfiction books (even though they are resourceful and interesting). This book had a lot of action, which made it better than most nonfiction books, but I still was contented enough to give it more than 3 stars.

For those who are looking for a book related to the civil war, this would be my top recommendation. I personally thou
My students read Bomb by Steve Sheinkin, so when I discovered this book by him that was about the Civil War, I snatched it right up.
Sheinkin was a textbook writer, but found many tidbits during his research that he couldn't include in a regular textbook. He gathered them up and wrote this book. But it is more than just interesting tidbits - it is a good overview of the major events/maps/characters of the war without being overwhelming.
The illustrations add a lot to the text; one compelling one
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gloria was learning about the Civil War in social studies and her teacher recommended this book and she loved it. It's a lot of the wacky and side stories and people that aren't in textbooks. But it does outline the entire entering the war, the war and right after.
It was interesting and holds your attention. Though the topic is very sad. Next time people say the US has never been so divided about politics remind them we once killed 600,000 of each other.
Caleb showed us the Blue and the Gray 80s
Meg McGregor
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a teacher for over 30 years and had my share of textbooks.

Textbooks have their use in our society and our students need to have them!

But, if I was still a teacher, I definitely would read this book to my students as they were learning about the Civil War!

As a student, I would love to have known these facts and anecdotes that the author found, after hours and hours of painstaking research!

I look forward to reading his book about the Revolutionary War!
The Marvelous Ms. Kaia
Absolutely superb in almost every way, this book is full of interesting stories of people that have never been heard of. I did say almost every way, and that was for the recommendations. This is just personal preference, and this may be how you are required to cite, but I think that for his recommendations it would have been more helpful to just name the book and it’s author, and none of the rest of it. Otherwise complete 5 stars!
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am an unabashed Sheinkin fan. His books are just so readable and enjoyable. "Two Miserable Presidents" is a history of the Civil War told in small, interesting, personal vignettes while simultaneously explaining the battles and politics involved as well.

One of my favorite touches is the final section, 'Whatever happened to?'
History with the good bits puts back in indeed. So I'm not a big history buff. Keeping track of names and dates and places and dates and names was...never very interesting to me. This made it tolerable -- I actually finished reading this -- which to me says quite a lot. I think it's a good target for any kid 4th grade and up. And if you actually like history? All the better.
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everything that our school Social Studies books should be!

Two Miserable Presidents is my 5th Sheinkin history book, so I’m already sold on his research and story telling abilities.

I’m eager to use these stories in my classroom to bring my teaching of the topic to life for my students. They are sure to find a few stories in here that make them laugh or cringe, and, possibly, remember.
Rachel Callahan
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2020
This is an excellent book for kids sharing the more interesting bits, in a general framework of the whole war. It has a lot of humor throughout, but also descriptions of some pretty gory stuff. But I was previewing it for a supplemental schoolbook and I will definitely have Noah (9) read it - he will love it.
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I was born in Brooklyn, NY, and my family lived in Mississippi and Colorado before moving back to New York and settling in the suburbs north of New York City. As a kid my favorite books were action stories and outdoor adventures: sea stories, searches for buried treasure, sharks eating people… that kind of thing. Probably my all-time favorite was a book called

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