cover image President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath

President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath

Mac Barnett, illus. by Chris Van Dusen. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6317-9

As presidential legend has it, the generously proportioned William Howard Taft once became lodged in his tub. In this pictorial re-enactment, Barnett (Extra Yarn) and Van Dusen (King Hugo's Huge Ego) imagine the undignified predicament: " %E2%80%98Blast!' said Taft. %E2%80%98This could be bad.' " First Lady Nellie Taft discovers the awkward situation and, at Taft's command, summons the vice president and cabinet secretaries for help. Van Dusen depicts the mustached, apoplectic president scrunched with knees to chest; in gouache caricatures, he emphasizes Taft's ample flesh and visualizes the staffers' dubious solutions (such as greasing the tub with fresh-churned butter or blowing it "into smithereens"). Splashes and bubbles protect Taft's modesty, just barely. (Readers may be reminded of Audrey and Don Wood's cheeky King Bidgood's in the Bathtub, though Bidgood didn't want to leave his porcelain throne.) Barnett's afterword questions whether this embarrassing event happened ("Maybe. Maybe not") and describes the president's multiple custom-made fixtures: "President Taft denied ever commissioning a special Taft-sized tub.... He was lying." Although there's considerably more naked flesh on display then in the average picture book, there's no denying the riveting spectacle of Taft's struggle. Ages 4%E2%80%938. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Mar.)