by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER & r & & r & See How They Run & r & by Elwood H. Smith & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & H & lt;/span & ey, kids: If you want to understand all the politicking going on this year, ask your Mom or Dad to get you this book. You'll need the help, because our voting system can be confusing -- we have an electoral college, for example, but it's not at all like the university nearby. With the Electoral College, each state gets a certain number of electors based on population. The people tell the elector who to vote for, and then the electors choose the president. Believe it or not, as Susan Goodman and Elwood Smith point out, a candidate can win the election even if he (or she) loses more than half the states!

But long before they get that far, candidates have to endure the primaries. Campaigning is expensive, so they have to ask for donations or take public money. They have to make speeches and shake thousands of hands. They'll put up with dirty tricks and maybe even play some of their own. They have to be careful to say the right thing and do what they say they'll do. And when it comes time to cast a ballot, they have to be sure to vote for themselves because, yes, there have been elections lost by just one vote.

But you're a kid. What can you do to influence local and national politics? Bug your parents to vote. Attend public meetings to learn about local government. Invite your mayor to speak to your class this fall. Find out who represents you in Congress and write them a letter. Remember that democracy starts with people like you.

The cover of See How They Run makes it look like it's strictly kids-only, but adults who pick up this fun book will learn a thing or two as well. In easy-to-understand terms, Goodman and Smith make politics easy. I appreciated their simple explanation of the Electoral College, and it was nice to have a comprehensive overview of the Hanging Chad hoo-ha of 2000. The trivia at the back of the book wrapped everything up nicely.

You'll buy this book for your 7- to 15-year-old, but you'll find yourself reading it, too.

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