by Suzanne Slade
illustrated by Rebecca Bond
On the birthday of the United States (which happens to be my favorite holiday), here is a book about the birth of our most famous house. In the style of "The House That Jack Built" (the famous British nursery rhyme), each progressive bit of the house is added to the refrain of the tale. The book begins with introducing the reader to George Washington, our first President, who was hand-selected after independence.
As George and others plan for and build each part of the house, information about why or how each portion of the planning happened. The grand "President's House," as it was known, (today we know it as the White House) was meant to be three stories and have a lead roof. But the quarries nearby didn't have enough stone, and George refused to ask England for any, so the third story was never built. "During his last year as president, building officials asked him to change the plans because the house was getting too expensive. George approved their request to use slate instead of lead for the roof." Little tidbits like these are awesome additions to any kid's (or adult's!) repertoire.
The art is watercolor and ink and is the perfect blend of realistic, historic, and whimsical. Soft lines allow for landscapes to feel homey and the greens and browns hit home the hard work of the building project.
The champion of the project, George himself, never lived in the house. The book shows John and Abigail Adams, the first residents, moving into an unfinished home. The book is rich with back matter, including a photograph of the White House today; info on how the house has changed through years, presidents, and updates; an author's note; a source list; and a resource list for those wanting to learn more.
This book sits squarely in the camp of the idea that if you want to know about something, seek out a children's book first - chances are, you'll learn more than you thought possible in the pages of a 32 page picture book.
Happy Fourth of July. I'm not sure what George would think of us today, but he'd likely be pleased as Apple Pie about the shape the White House is in!