What a fun little book. The White House Kids: The Perks, Pleasures, Problems, and Pratfalls of the Presidents’ Children by Joe Rhatigan and illustrated by Jay Shinn explores the lives of children, grandchildren, or other youthful relations of the Presidents during their time in office from George Washington to Barack Obama. This colorful book with interesting blurbs, photographs, and quotations looks at the various Presidents who occupied the White House over the years and their relationship with the children who accompanied them. Whether spoiled and pampered or made to do chores, life at the White House was like living in a fish bowl with the curious butting into the first family’s personal lives through newspaper articles, paparazzi, or White House Tours (there was even a time when folks could come and go as they pleased with outrageous hijinks including peeking into private bedrooms). Of course, now the secret service watches over the children, even when they attend school. Speaking of school, the sorts of education experienced by White House kids varied greatly from Tutors, to Private Schools to Public Schools to no formal schooling at all. While some of the children were well behaved, others were little tyrants who ran roughshod over the White House, disturbing the President or playing pranks on visitors. Some of the kids were more popular than their parents providing numerous antics which make for amusing reading. My favorite story is when Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter Alice cut her wedding cake with a sword, setting a tradition for future White House weddings. Amongst the mainly humorous tidbits and famous firsts, there is also the tragedy of children dying while their parents were in office.
The appendix has a complete list of all the children and what happened to them later in life as well as a list of the Presidents and First Ladies. There is so much information jammed into this book that it is hard to keep everybody straight. I feel the list of Presidents should be expanded to include the list of the First Children (in addition to their short biographical sketches). There is also an extensive bibliography plus an index which would be helpful for research projects.
My main complaint is that the information is not chronological, but moves back and forth through time with various themes to sort the relevant information. However, this book does give the reader the opportunity to see history up close and personal revealing White House tidbits focusing on the littlest of residents. Whether for fun or information, the graphic format will appeal to school aged children (as well as their parents) who will enjoy reading about their counterparts lucky enough to live at the White House. Four stars.
Thank you to Netgalley and Charlesbridge Publishing for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.