First Children: Growing Up in the White House

Katherine Leiner, Author, Katie Keller, Illustrator, Katie Keller, Photographer
Katherine Leiner, Author, Katie Keller, Illustrator, Katie Keller, Photographer Tambourine Books $20 (0p) ISBN 978-0-688-13341-2
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
Library Binding - 157 pages - 978-0-688-13342-9
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Focusing on children who either resided in or were frequent visitors to the White House during the terms of 17 U.S. Presidents, this assiduously researched volume is a great way to bring American history to life for young readers. In place of biographical overviews, the author offers informal, anecdotal stories. Some are somber in tone: George Washington's granddaughter, Nellie Custis, loses her best friend in the 1793 yellow fever epidemic; Mollie Garfield's hopes are falsely raised when her father temporarily recovers from the gunshot wound that eventually claimed his life. More frequently the tales focus on lighter moments: Theodore Roosevelt's impish son Quentin sneaks a horse upstairs to cheer his bedridden brother; Amy Carter has her first camp-out in the tree house she and her father designed. While providing bountiful trivia, such as the fact that Calvin Coolidge's wife kept a pet raccoon at the executive mansion, Leiner's narrative is valuable for its depiction of a number of these Presidents in their rarely emphasized roles as fathers and grandfathers. The large format and open, uncluttered book design allow plenty of room for period drawings and a generous selection of photos as well as Keller's (Seven Loaves of Bread) stylized, colored scratchboard portraits of the White House youths. These intricately lined pictures showcase the dress and decor of the times while sustaining the candid mood of the text. Ages 8-up. (Apr.)
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