Many of us are drawn to writing picture books because we want to have a positive impact on kids. Maybe we hope to encourage a sense of empathy, kindness or self-acceptance, or teach them about a person or issue we find important.

But—as my files full of clunky manuscripts attest—good intentions don’t always make for good reading. The challenge is how to convey that message or lesson in a way that’s kid-friendly and visually appealing.

Take voting, for example. Although typical picture book readers won’t be eligible to vote for a good ten years or more, they’re not too young to understand basic democratic principles. But can those concepts be conveyed in a way that’s simple and engaging?

Well . . . yes!

The President of the Jungle (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2020) offers up an easily digestible civics lesson in a bright and appealing package. Created by a four-person team (André Rodrigues, Larissa Ribeiro, Paula Desgualdo and Pedro Markun) and originally published in Brazil, it’s educational, entertaining and totally relevant to our current moment.

Here are some of the elements that make it work:

The first line.

On the first page, a furry animal looks down at a winding black stream and asks:

Hey, what happened to our river? 

How’s that for a perfect opening? It pulls you in, conveys a sense of urgency and makes you want to turn the page.

A clear villain.

Turns out Lion, the King of the Jungle, rerouted the river for his own swimming pool. Kids have an acute sense of fairness. They know that’s greedy and selfish and just plain wrong.

A sticky but solvable problem.

What do the other jungle denizens do about their rerouted river? They complain. They make signs and march in protest. But Lion is unmoved. So they decide to hold an election for a new leader.


To keep things from getting too serious, the creators inject bits of humor throughout. Like, for example, the final Election Rule:

7) Candidates cannot eat their opponents.

Great design. 

Notice how the rules were presented on that page? Nice, huh? That’s just one of many design choices that make the book easy to follow, good looking and fun to read. I also like how this spread shows what campaigning is all about: talking, talking and more talking.

A Glossary.

To keep the text streamlined, election-related terms are written in bold throughout the book (as in the humor spread above) and defined in a handy glossary at the end. 

I’m happy to report that the winner of the election (SPOILER ALERT!!) wasn’t the flashiest or most aggressive of the contenders. It was Sloth, the one who listened best and promised to work for everyone.

Back in 2016, 40% of eligible voters—nearly 100 million people—didn’t vote. That’s far more people than voted for Clinton (66 million) who, as y’all probably recall, won the popular vote. There are many reasons why people don’t vote, of course, and a picture book isn’t likely to increase voter turnout on its own. Still, introducing these concepts to young kids—and showing that elections can be a way to discuss and solve problems—seems like a great idea.


Leave a comment below by this Saturday, October 17th. Double points if you share your voting plan (not the WHO, just the how—e.g., by absentee, early in person, on election day). I’ll mail a copy to the winner early next week so you have it well before the election. (Many thanks to Nancy Paulsen Books for the giveaway copy!)

By the way, if you don’t yet have a plan, or still have questions about where to vote or whether you’re registered, check out these voting resources.

As for my voting plan? Here in North Carolina, early voting starts Thursday. My husband and I will be at the polls on Friday to cast our ballots. I can’t wait.

Thanks for reading—and voting!!


Linda Ashman

Linda Ashman is the author of more than 45 picture books, as well as The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, a how-to guide for picture book writers. Her books have been included on the ‘best of the year’ lists of The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, the American Library Association, the Children’s Book Council, and The New York Public Library, among others, and have been translated into many languages.


  1. What a fun book! Hooray for voting!

  2. Love love love the encouragement to vote. And it’s never too early to start encouraging kids. My husband and I live in Iowa. We registered for absentee ballots and received them in the mail already. We will be filling the out and taking them to our local polling center.

  3. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    Wow. This sounds like so much fun!

  4. Looks like a fabulous book to reach our new voters at a young age! Early voter here, starts today!

  5. You are right: the authors did a great job of explaining the process in a way that is informative yet easy to grasp and in a fun way.

  6. Great story on an important topic! I’ve voted from abroad!! US residents living overseas can vote, and I worked hard to make sure those living in Switzerland knew exactly what to do to be sure their voice (and vote) will count.

  7. Sounds like they did a great job with this book. Perfect timing! We vote by mail. It’s been that way for years.

  8. Such a timely topic- and so well done! Congrats!

  9. This book looks great!
    I am planning on voting in person on Election Day! My polling place is in walking distance, and wearing an N95 mask!

    Would love this book for my twins to help explain how voting works, and how important it is!

  10. Hopefully it will send the message so kids grow up know to VOTE BECAUSE OT MATTERS!

  11. What a clever idea to teach kids about voting. I can’t wait to read this one

  12. I’m looking forward to reading this book. It’s important that my kids know that voting is more than just getting an “I Voted” sticker.
    I will be voting in person on Election Day at my local polling spot so I can eyeball that the vote went in!

  13. I’m looking forward to reading this book. It’s important that my kids know that voting is more than just getting an “I Voted” sticker.
    I will be voting in person on Election Day at my local polling spot so I can eyeball that the vote went in!

  14. Great concept! Let’s also encourage our children to vote by example. I’m voting early, in-person with a mask.

  15. This is a great concept to get across to kids. Kudos that it’s done with some humor! We are voting early, in-person at our house!

  16. I LOVE this book! I checked it out from my library a couple of weeks ago and profiled it on my Instagram account, Land of Libros—home of the 10-word picture book review. I sure would love my own copy of this fabulous book.

    As for my voting plan, I received a mail in ballot but will be taking it to my local ballot drop box on October 19th, the first day the drop box will be available. The sooner the better, I say!

  17. I am voting by mail in Illinois!

  18. This book is brilliant! I love the idea and it’s very well presented. I already voted by absentee ballot and dropped it off. I checked my city clerk’s site and my ballot has already been received with a valid signature and is ready to be tallied on election day. I even printed a sign for my front window telling everyone “I VOTED” because this election has so much riding on the results and I want to remind others to use their voices too.

  19. Excellent post. I love the art. Wondering if the four person team all collaborated on both words and images?

  20. This is such a timely book with a great message and adorable illustrations!

  21. I think it’s so important to involve youngsters in our democracy at the earliest possible moment. I love the idea of this book and can’t wait to read it. I already voted with an absentee ballot dropped into an official drop box.

  22. I definitely want this book !!! Very important illustration of an important concept and a vital topic.

  23. Great way to teach a Civics lesson! I will vote in person on Election Day. The polls are walking distance for me, a way to exercise my right to vote and exercise my body simultaneously. I have voted by absentee ballot in the past on occasion. The great state of Ohio used mail-in ballots for the primary this year because of the pandemic, so I have experienced voting in the various ways.

  24. Bought this book for our library and it’s currently checked out! I voted at my county Board of Elections last Friday!

  25. This looks amazing. If I win, I plan to share with my son’s class who just finished their voting unit. We get to start voting early on October 24th, and we’re planning to vote as a family.

  26. I’m looking forward to reading this book. It’s important that my kids know that voting is more than just getting an “I Voted” sticker.

  27. What a fun book with such an important message!
    Absentee voting for me.

  28. With voting rules included!

  29. Fantastic! An excellent story that shares an important topic along with humor.

    My voting plan took place today through a mail-in ballot.

  30. Wow, I’m impressed that this was created by a FOUR person team!

    My voting plan is to vote early in person.

  31. Vote! So important. This book is incredibly important. And, I’m masking up and heading to the polls for early voting!

  32. Wow. Interesting.
    For those curious about the process – more info found here:
    The work was crowdfunded and written collaboratively with children in workshops. “The illustrations were made mixing hundreds of paper cut outs and loose pencil and charcoal doodles, then colored digitally.”

  33. Perfect timing on this month’s book and what’s happening. Thank you Shona for sharing about the illustration process.

  34. What a fun, important book. Love the layout and the intro. Where’s the river? I have already voted by absentee ballot. Yay!

  35. Great book! Let’s hear it for sloths who listen! And just make sure you’re putting your early ballot in legitimate ballot boxes or dropping off at legit voting sites. California is having issues with unofficial ballot boxes as you may have seen in the news.

    • Yes, hooray for the sloth! And, yes, Jilanne, I did see some stories about the ballot boxes in CA. We all have to be so careful this year to do everything exactly right to make sure our votes are counted.

  36. Perfect book for these imperfect times. I’ve already voted by absentee ballot! Woot! 🙂

  37. I want this book for my nieces and nephews to explain how important voting is! I will be voting absentee!

  38. This book is an easy way for our young students to understand the importance of voting! I plan to vote with an advanced ballot sent to me at home. Then I will drop it off at the elections office in my city.

  39. This is awesome. Each animal plays a part in making the whole process work. This is just like it should work in our democracy. I love it. This would be great for my 10 year old grandson.

  40. How fun! Great to go over these concepts with kids. And I already voted…woot!!

  41. What a great book! I love the theme of voting and using the setting of the jungle! Such fun illustrations too! I got a mail in ballot, voted, and returned it to a drop off center inside one of our branch libraries.

  42. ????????????I’ll be voting tomorrow. My kinder class will be voting next week in an election of their own! Looking forward to this book.

  43. What a great book, Linda! Congratulations!!! And such a perfect timing for its release. My plan is to vote in person in our local precinct with my husband and given that our kids are in school in Florida, encouraged them get their absentee ballot. It’ll be the first time they’re both eligible to vote so they are thrilled. They love history and I trust them to make good choices.

  44. This sounds like a WONDERFUL book — and very timely! My grandson is 7 and is just beginning to understand that voting is important, so he would be a great beneficiary of this story.

  45. Hi Linda, what a great book for such a timing topic. I am just so happy to see your writing here! My plan is to share with my students the importance of voting since me, an Alien (residence, visa holder or foreign visitor) , cannot vote.

    • Hi, Li! So nice to see you here! (And, yes, it’s good to be back after a long break…). I think this would be a great book for your students. I know you’re a wonderful teacher!!

  46. This looks fantastic. Congratulations!
    Early Voting!

  47. What a great book to teach young people about voting and the election process. Our state is all vote by mail this year. I voted!

  48. Very timely! Looks like just the book I need right now to read to my kiddos.

  49. This is a great picture book to explain the voting process. I read it aloud to my K-4th graders. Before announcing the winner, I let the students vote for who they thought should be president of the Jungle. Most chose Sloth, recognizing his willingness to work for everyone! We compared the jungle rules for the election with the U.S. election rules. Very timely! and fun to read!

    My husband and I voted early for this election.

  50. Great book! Surprise Ending.

    My parents did Mail In voting.

  51. This is a great book!

  52. This IS a great book! Loved reading it. Thank you so much! I posted a short book review on my blog about The President of the Jungle. Posted it on Election Day!

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