cover image Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major

Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major

Tom Isbell, , illus. by Ard Hoyt, foreword by Laura Bush. . S&S/Aladdin, $10.99 (112pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-4857-5

Based on a play by Tom Isbell, this caper inaugurates the three-book Kennedy Center Presents: Capital Kids series, which focuses on the history of the White House and its young residents. On a dark and stormy night, three of Theodore Roosevelt's famously unruly offspring find mysterious slips of paper in a copy of Treasure Island . These look like scraps of blueprints for the White House, and on the back are rhyming riddles referring to hidden treasure. As the kids decipher the clues, they visit various rooms in their expansive home while trying to keep their quest a secret from their new governess and their father, who is entertaining the Russian ambassador. The story neatly incorporates tidbits from first family history and lore (Dolley Madison's rescue of George Washington's portrait just before the British torched the building; the Roosevelt children's elevator ride with their pony). To this mix Kidd introduces a White House ghost, who goads the narrator, 11-year-old Archie, to find the treasure ahead of his older two siblings, but the author cuts any spookiness with wordplay and hints of slapstick (the Russian ambassador is said to lose his monocle in the caviar). Hoyt's finely crosshatched line drawings, to some extent exaggerated like political cartoons, convey brainy fun. Ages 7-10. (Jan.)