Isn't that the most delightful subtitle for a book? It foreshadows the fun you're going to have reading this picture book biography, winner of a Sibert Honor, about the headstrong and irrepressible oldest child and only daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. It starts, "Theodore Roosevelt had a small problem." In the first of many snappy full-page illustrations, done in gouache-like "digital media," we see just the gray pinstriped pants of the portly Teddy, his black shoe tapping in impatience, while all we see of Alice is her high button shoe as she rushes off the page. Why is he wiping his perspiring brow in the next picture? It's not from herding cattle across the Dakota badlands. "He'd done that." Was it from leading the Rough Riders up Kettle Hill? No. It's all because of his oldest child, Alice Lee Roosevelt, "running riot," as her dad called it and "eating up the world," as Alice called it.
Though Alice was only two days old when her mother died in 1884, she was not one to think of herself as a "poor little thing." Home schooled in New York City, she was a regular tomboy, and raged against being sent to Miss Spence's boarding school and being a "proper young lady." "Let me loose in your library," she said to her indulgent father, and he agreed. His famous quote about her? "I can be president of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both."
The book is packed with fun and facts even on the endpapers. Alice was a public figure whose antics captivated newspaper readers like the celebs of today, but she spent her life in Washington behind the scenes, where they called her "the other Washington Monument." You can't help but wonder what the scandalous and vivacious Alice could have done if she'd had the chance to have her own career in politics. Explore the life of her cousin, the other female Roosevelt, in Barbara Cooney's Eleanor.
Sasha and Malia Obama will probably be interested in what life was like for other presidents’ children who lived in the White House. They’ll also enjoy Staton Rabin’s Mr. Lincoln's Boys: Being the Mostly True Adventures of Abraham Lincoln's Troublemaking Sons, Tad and Willie.
Reviewed by JF.
THEMES: BIOGRAPHY. PRESIDENTS. SOCIAL STUDIES. WOMEN.
Suggested Ages: 7-10