Martin Van Buren's political fortunes are certainly tied to his support of Andrew Jackson. Van Buren managed Jackson's 1828 presidential campaign and although he was elected governor of New York that same year he only served 71 days before "Old Hickory" named him secretary of state. Jackson also appointed Van Buren minister to Great Britain and eventually made him his running mate in the 1832 election. Consequently, when Jackson declined to run for a third term it was Van Buren that he supported as the Democratic nominee. However, Steven Ferry sets the stage for Van Buren's troubled presidency by establishing in the start of this juvenile biography that in terms of political philosophy the 8th President of the United States was raised on the principles of Thomas Jefferson, primarily in placing power in the hands of the citizens and in limiting the powers of the Federal government.
This volume in the Our Presidents series does a nice job of characterizing each stage in Van Buren's life and political career, starting with his early years as The Young Politician. Ferry then develops his rise in Democratic-Republican politics as The Red Fox of Kinderhook, showing him to be a shrewd but principled politician (there is a choice political cartoon showing Van Buren as an opossum who carries other politicians in his pouch). This second chapter covers a lot of ground, from being elected to the New York state senate in 1820 to being elected president in 1836.
This allows Ferry to devote the last two chapters of this juvenile biography to Van Buren's term in the White House and his rather interesting career after leaving office. Ferry presents President Van Buren as The Careful Dutchman, who never made quick decisions but whose careful approach to leadership proved detrimental when the nation entered a depression. This book does a better job of covering the key issues and problems of Van Buren's term in the White House than it does his early political career. The final chapter, Standing Firm, covers his failed re-election bid and his 1848 campaign for the Free Soil Party, which opposed slavery.
As is the case with these Our Presidents volumes, this look at Martin Van Buren has informative sidebars in each chapter about key topics such as the Peggy Eaton Affair and the Second Bank. The margins usually have Interesting Facts about the life and times of Van Buren and the back of the book has a Time Line and four pages of Glossary Terms. Illustrated with mostly historic pantings, etchings and political cartoons, the strength of this volume is the chapter covering Van Buren's trouble term in the White House. While not the most informative juvenile biography of Van Buren, it does provide young readers with the basics of his life and political career.