Sylvie Dougherty's eyes light up when she talks about her family's December vacation.

"It was the best trip ever," she says.

But the destination wasn't Disney World, the beach or any of the other usual suspects.

Instead, Sylvie got the chance to explore the political world and her fascination with U.S. presidents by visiting the Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush presidential libraries in Texas and the Bill Clinton library in Arkansas.

"I've just always been interested in presidents," the Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School fourth-grader said.

"My dad always had a lot of books about presidents and I started reading them," Sylvie said. "We have a lot of presidential busts around our house, too.

"The more I learned about the presidents, the more I wanted to know," she said. "They're just so interesting."

She said she likes all the presidents, but does have her favorites.

That list includes Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Roosevelt ("both of them," she clarified), Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Carter and Obama.

And then, there's Calvin Coolidge.

"I like that he didn't talk too much," Sylvie said. "They called him 'Silent Cal.' "

One of her favorite presidential stories involves the country's 30th leader.

"A dinner guest sitting next to President Coolidge told him she had made a bet with a friend that she could get him to say at least three words," Sylvie said. "He just said, 'you lose.'

"That's pretty funny for a guy who didn't say much," she said.

Each president comes with plenty of fascinating and surprising facts, Sylvie said.

Some of her top picks:

* Andrew Jackson kept a 1,400-pound wheel of cheese in the White House for two years.

* Teddy Roosevelt's son once brought a pony upstairs on the White House elevator.

* Lyndon Baines Johnson gave each of his daughters names with the initials LBJ. He even named his dog Little Beagle Johnson.

When Sylvie recently was given the opportunity to portray a president in a presentation for her fourth-grade classmates, she chose LBJ.

"I wanted to pick someone that not a lot of people would know about," she said, "and I thought he was a good choice for Black History Month. Not a lot of people know he chose the first African-Americans for the Supreme Court and for the cabinet."

Franklin Roosevelt may be the president she most admires, she said.

"He had a great saying that the only thing you have to fear is fear itself," Sylvie said. "He was president during really tough times -- both the Great Depression and World War II. It was a time when you couldn't be afraid."

Someday, she said, she would like to run for public office -- maybe even the presidency itself. Presidential historian is another appealing job option.

"A person could do both," Sylvie said. "Theodore Roosevelt was a politician and a historian."

If she ever became president, "the first thing I would do is learn from the other presidents and what they did so I would make the right decisions," she said.

Edison/Larson fourth-grade science and social studies teacher Melissa Schoemer said she won't be surprised by any of Sylvie's future achievements.

"She's amazing, absolutely amazing," Schoemer said. "Sylvie really knows her stuff when it comes to presidents. She obviously has read and researched so much.

"To have her level of knowledge at such a young age is so impressive," she said. "Kids will dabble in topics that interest them. She's committed to learning as much about presidents as she can."

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman