President Has Been Shot

President Has Been Shot

Book Information

Scholastic October 2013
Social Studies Curriculum

"As the night lengthened on November 21, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald could not escape the hopelessness of his life.  He was a lonely, impoverished, and embittered young man who had failed at everything in life that he had ever attempted -- high school, the Marine Corps, marriage, fatherhood, menial jobs, political activism, writing, being an expatriate, and significance.  And now, on this night, he had failed in love.  He was helpless, drifting toward oblivion.  Tomorrow he would change that."

"Down the road to Massachusetts driving through the night

I thought I saw Jack Kennedy hitchhiking by a light.

I hit the brakes -- backed up slow, and Kennedy got in

I said, 'It's nice to see you lookin' back in shape again.

Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe they gunned you down'

He just shook his head and looked off sadly with a frown.

Said, 'bullets are like waves, they only rearrange the sand

History turns upon the tides and not the deeds of man.'"

-- Robert Hunter, "Down the Road Again"

"There are lots of things for me to do

On my way home, I'll tell you a few

I can watch a squirrel climb up a tree

Or make a buzz like a bumblebee

And that's what I might do today

On my way home"

-- Ken Whiteley, "My Way Home"

Every afternoon as a young schoolchild on Long Island, I would leave Fern Place School and walk the half-mile home.  From Fern Place, I would turn right onto Orchard, left onto Atwood, left onto Manor, right onto Sunrise, and walk halfway down the street to our house, number 33.  

And nearly fifty years after the 22nd of November, 1963, I can still take you around the corner to Manor Street in Plainview -- either literally, or on Google Maps -- and show you exactly which house me and my friend Jimmy were walking past, on our way home from Fern Place School, when two older boys we did not know came running up to us and told us that the President had been shot and killed. 

No previous moment in my young life affected me to the degree that that moment did.  It is a memory that still causes me to feel a tenseness in my chest.  The shock, the otherworldliness of that news caused a sudden sharp piercing of the innocence of my childhood.  It is a memory I will forever live with.  It is a moment that changed America.

Somehow, over the past fifty years, I've never learned very much about the troubled short life of JFK's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.  But this book has changed that.  And amidst the ongoing national debate over whether or not to restore the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, and the hornet's nest surrounding Edward Snowden's revelations of massive Federal surveillance of citizens, author James L. Swanson dishes up a lot of information about Lee Harvey Oswald that solidifies my own belief that there should be much more control of and oversight into who gets to run around America with weapons, and how there are certainly some people in America whose behavior should result in the government keeping tabs on them.  

Another thing I've learned from “THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN SHOT!” are the bad decisions made by the Dallas police that led up to the subsequent murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.  And one thing, I must point out, that makes this book especially different from Swanson's equally-excellent book on Abraham Lincoln -- CHASING LINCOLN'S KILLER -- is that with this book, you can go to YouTube and actually watch the recorded new clips of live events that are discussed by Swanson in this book.

"Jackie reflected on the meaning of his life: 'John Kennedy believed so strongly that one's aim should not just be the most comfortable life possible -- but that we should all do something to right the wrongs we see -- and not just complain about them.  We owe that to our country...'

"'He believed,' Jacqueline Kennedy said, 'that one man can make a difference -- and every man should try.'" 

In providing us an excellent introduction to JFK, and a moment-by-moment look at the last days of his, and Lee Harvey Oswald's respective lives, James L. Swanson provides readers a look at America in the early 1960s, a look at how we (who lived through it) were captivated by a young charismatic president and his wife, and how we were forever changed by one madman with a gun.


Ages 9 and up    288 pages  : 978-0-545-49007-8


Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS
Instructor, San Jose State University, California USA
School of Library and Information Science

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