Richie’s Picks: WHITE HOUSE KIDS
Richie’s Picks: WHITE HOUSE KIDS: THE PERKS, PLEASURES, PROBLEMS, AND PRATFALLS OF THE PRESIDENTS’ CHILDREN by Joe Rhatigan and Jay Shin, ill., Charlesbridge/Imagine!, 96p., ISBN: 978-1-936140-80-0
“While you do your homework upstairs, there will be hundreds of people downstairs working. That’s not including the more than six thousand people who come to visit your new house every day. And, oh yeah, there are armed guards at every entrance and a SWAT team on the roof.”
In introducing us to the lives of some of the young people who have inhabited the White House as the offspring, grandkids, and other young relatives of Presidents, author Joe Rhatigan asks, “Would you trade the life you’re currently living for instant celebrity and incredible adventures? Would you say good-bye to all your friends, your school, and your neighborhood to live in a giant mansion?”
Not meant to be a comprehensive book on the history of all kids who have lived in the White House, this edition is, instead, a fun read filled with anecdotes and quirky facts about some of those kids and about the mansion itself. I’m betting that lots of these stories that are included will spur further interest in the various episodes of American history portrayed here.
For instance, I recall reading in books about the Corps of Discovery Expedition how those famous explorers shipped live specimens and lots of artifacts back to the White House. Here you get the opposite perspective -- of being a kid in the White House when Lewis and Clark sent a black-tailed prairie dog your way, and Zebulon Pike followed up with a pair of grizzly bear cubs (which Thomas Jefferson permitted to be kept in the House for a couple of months).
I love the mischievous sort of stories found here. For instance:
“Once, while exploring the White House attic, Tad and Willie discovered where all the cords for the house’s bell system were located. (The president and first lady used the bells to summon staff.) Tad pulled on them all at the same time, making every bell in the house ring. Servants, Cabinet members, and secretaries ran all around in mass confusion, imagining the worst sort of emergencies, until the president suggested someone look for Tad. There is no record of any punishment.”
“Quentin Roosevelt, Teddy’s youngest son, attempted to cheer up his sick brother Archie by sneaking Archie’s pony, Algonquin, into the White House, stuffing him in the elevator, and taking him to the sick boy’s room – all without getting caught (or getting in trouble!)”
As one who has been intrigued throughout my life by the likes of Caroline, Amy, Chelsea, and those two beautiful girls who are currently living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I had a great time reading about them, and about kids in other, long ago eras who grew up calling the White House home.
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