Monday, September 30, 2013

"The President Has Been Shot" by James L. Swanson: Book Review

"The President Has Been Shot!": The Assassination of John F. Kennedy“The President Has Been Shot!” The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
Author: James L. Swanson
Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2013
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Age level: 12 up, Young Adult (nonfiction)
Pages: 336

Swanson gives a fascinating account of the events and people leading up to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (JFK) in Dallas, Texas in 1963. Intimate and surprising details are provided that take readers back in time to that fateful November day and its aftermath. But few it seemed were worried that day. Security was limited. At forty-three, John F. Kennedy was America’s youngest elected president (1960) and his pretty wife Jacqueline Bouvier (Jackie) was younger still by twelve years. Although JFK was elected by a slim margin, the Kennedy family soon captured America with their youthful charm.

Swanson calls it the “Kennedy mystique.” JFK had become “a youthful symbol of a new era of American optimism and spirit.” However, he also proved to be a worthy leader. In less than three years JFK had dealt with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, prevented a Russian missile attack, made landing on the moon a goal, achieved the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, spoke out for freedom and against communism at the Berlin Wall, and addressed America’s growing problem of racial inequality among blacks. So as the Kennedy couple embarked on a Texas campaign trip in 1963, they were hopeful a second term in office would follow.

But in the excitement of the moment an assassin’s bullet awaited them instead, that of Lee Harvey Oswald. Swanson presents the facts and what little is known about Oswald, of his personal life, family, and possible motivations. Then when the assassination takes place, Swanson carefully describes Jackie’s painful ordeal and heartfelt demands that dictated the funeral and how her husband would be remembered. New readers of JFK history will find Swanson’s ‘you are there’ account both shocking and memorable. Photos, resources for further study, detailed building diagrams and more are provided.  

I should add that I found this retelling of American history more than interesting. There are many alive today who have vivid recall of where they were and what they were doing upon learning of President Kennedy's assassination. I was sitting at my desk in Mrs. Russ's math class. I remember watching this strict, hard teacher, who was often gruff in manner, crumble into tears. I could even tell you where I was sitting in her classroom that day.

Copyright 2013 © Sharon M. Himsl


  1. Such a tragedy. Can you imagine being a president's wife (at any age) but especially at 31? Jackie must've been incredibly mature, to have handled it all with such intelligence, grace and courage. But then, they're an entirely different class of people than my background. They were bred for life in the limelight.

    1. Oh that is so true, being bred for the limelight. It's what so many of us find interesting.But their families suffered so much over the years. They sacrificed a lot.

  2. I, too, was in class--8th grade history class. And remember where I was sitting and the stunned silence when the principal made the announcement over the intercom. Those moments don't leave us, do they? Thanks for the review of Swanson's book. Sounds like a worthwhile read...

  3. Thanks for visiting, Kenda. For me, it felt like the 911 tragedy. When we first heard the news, none of us knew what events might follow. Was our governement being attacked? Would someone else die? Some events stay with us for a lifetime!


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