Why the People: The Case for Democracy

First Second. (World Citizen Comics). Jun. 2022. 272p. Tr $28.99. ISBN 9781250760708.
Gr 8 Up–Framed as exchanges between two travelers exploring an airport’s amenities, this lively overview uses a combination of metaphors and specific examples to compare and contrast select types of authoritarian and consensual governments. Working from the assumption that people will always demand governments that are (or at least seem) predictable, legitimate, and transparent, the survey begins with notions from a variety of ancient philosophers about virtuous rulers and kings. From there, it moves on to food-court-style menus that present different “flavors” of government systems. These include monarchy and dictatorship, theocracies like Iran and the Vatican, oligarchies like the U.S.’s Gilded Age era, and finally an expansive “buffet” of past and present variations of democracies which, given generous dollops of the “secret sauce” of commitment to democratic consensus, can be the most successful and resilient system of all. Using simple cartoon line drawings with blue highlights, Shwed gathers both ordinary citizens and historically prominent figures in the ruled panels to express issues or points of view in support of the main dialogue (“You can’t blame the system if people sit on their thumbs”), then closes with a final, helpful summary “menu.”
VERDICT Not an encyclopedic tally, as the author points out in her afterword, but readers within sight of voting age will come away with lots of useful tools and perspectives.

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