Watergate Book for Children, Narrated by a Fly on the Wall

Serious history books have typically done the heavy lifting when it comes to teaching young students about the past, but two authors thought of a more engaging way to learn. Their new book, Bringing Down a President: The Watergate Scandal, offers a creative retelling for middle-school students of one of the biggest moments in U.S. history.

John Jay College Professor Andrea Balis teamed up with award-winning author and friend Elizabeth Levy for the project. Both fans of history, they formerly worked in theater together, and often confessed how much they wished to be a fly on the wall for certain historical events.

With that point of view in mind, they structured the book through the lens of a fly. “Real flies have eyes that are made of lots of little eyes that can see in every direction at once,” they wrote.

The fly on the wall serves as an omniscient narrator, offering young readers context as they move through the complicated details of what led President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974 rather than be removed from office. Balis and Levy go one step further by inserting supporting quotes from the people involved — thanks to Nixon’s audio recordings, newspaper articles, court documents, and more.

Bringing Down a President moves across three sections, “The Game Begins,” “The Cover-Up,” and “The Great Unraveling,” and includes black and white illustrations of the central players, including Nixon, Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and the Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who worked diligently to break the story of break-ins at Democratic Party headquarters and cover-ups connected to Nixon operatives. Nixon resigned after the House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend his impeachment.

The book’s publication coincides with the 45th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation on Aug. 9, 1974. Its subject matter is also timely in helping students understand the impeachment process, how former presidents viewed the press, and other topics that are still making headlines in the Trump era.