Book Offers A Quirky Read About Some White House Pets
President Adams’ Alligator: And Other White House Pets by Cheryl and Peter Barnes is a good book for kids who love animals and an even better book for kids who love animals and are fascinated by the U.S. presidents. If your child is in this small group, you will need to add this book to your shelf when it is released in February 2013.
The Barnes couple wrote and illustrated the ambitious and very good Mouse books, through which they teach kids about different parts of the government. This book clearly has a political (though non-partisan) slant to it, and is ambitious because they aim to tell readers about every single pet of every single president. That’s a lot of pets for a lot of presidents. For me, it is a few steps away from the greatness of their Mouse books.
The stories of the pets are set within the context of a classroom discussion. On the first page, a teacher asks the students to name their favorite pet. She receives a wide range of answers, and explains how the nation’s Presidents have also had a wide variety of pets live with them in the White House.
So, starting with George Washington, she tells her students about them all. Half of them are simply listed, just stating which president had what type of dogs or horses (the two clear winners). Every other page the authors include a cute story to go along with the president. My favorite is the tale of Teddy Roosevelt’s children: When one of his sons was sick, two of his other sons snuck up the sick boy’s favorite pony on the White House elevator and brought the pony—clip, clop, clip, clop—down the hall to help speed recovery. I know a pony in my bedroom would do the trick!
I wish that the Barnes had mirrored the example of their Mouse books by taking the research of White House pets and creating a series of books to highlight the most extraordinary examples—of the alligator or bears that crazily popped up as “pets”—or those pets that came with the most extraordinary stories—the Roosevelt pony, for example. That way, kids can learn about the true characters in the story as well as have a simplified tale of just one president and the animals surrounding him.
At the end, we readers are thrown a random fact: The Obamas built a vegetable garden and want children to eat more vegetables. While I do appreciate any help in increasing the number of vegetables in my kids’ diet, I’m not sure how that ties in with the pet theme.
Instead, it’s a muddle of a book with too many facts and too little story that feels disjointed and rushed. I hope that there are a few books following this one about one or two pets, or one or two presidents that are a more in-depth look at pets in the White House.
President Adams’ Alligator And Other White House Pets
By Cheryl Shaw Barnes and Peter W. Barnes
Little Patriot Press: www.littlepatriotpress.com
Price: Available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books a Million! for approximately $10
|Easy to Read||3|
|Quality of Illustrations
|Appealed to Both Boys and Girls||5|
| I Would Purchase This For My Family
| I would Purchase This As A Gift
|I Found Information in The Book Helpful||4|
| Overall Rating
All ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being highest.
Meet the Reviewer!
Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom
and wife living in Great Falls, VA.
In addition to reading to her three
small hildren, Kate runs marathons,
Crossfits, and blogs about raising
kids with books at