Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The House That George Built

The House That George Built

Suzanne Slade
Illustrator:  Rebecca Bond 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Charlesbridge, 2012   ISBN: 978-1580892629

When the American people were finally able form their own independent nation, the United States of America, they decided that they would have a president to lead them rather than a king. They asked General George Washington to be their first president, and he took on the job knowing full well that a lot of hard work lay in the years ahead.

   In addition to passing laws, forming a government, hosting gatherings of influential people, and trying to solve his people’s problems, the new president also decided that he needed “to build a special house that would be a symbol” of the United States.

   He chose a piece of land in the state of Maryland that overlooked the Potomac River, and sponsored a contest to find the right design for the building. Many of the designs were not at all suitable, but the drawing submitted by James Hoban was just what the president was looking for.

   Getting the new presidential house built was not easy. President Washington personally helped to measure and prepare the building site. Then he had to make sure that the builders had enough bricks and stone. When it became clear that there wasn’t enough stone available, the house plan changed so that it had two stories instead of three. The President learned that when it comes to building such a large house, one has to be able to adapt.

   In this fascinating picture book we learn how the White House was built and how George Washington supervised the project. In addition to the main text, readers will find a poem, a version of This is the house the Jack Built, which gets longer and longer as the story unfolds.

   At the back of the book the author provides more information about how the President’s House changed over time. It got burned down, was rebuilt, was added to, and was renamed. There is also an Author’s Note that provides readers with further information about the President’s House’s history.