Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Wackiest White House Pets

Wackiest White House Pets

Kathryn Gibbs Davis
Illustrator:  David Johnson 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 8 to 11
Scholastic, 2004   ISBN: 978-0439443739

Though the White House is a symbol of the American government, it is also the home of the First Family, and in this capacity it is often the home for that family’s pets. Some of the pets come with the family when they move in, as did Socks, President Clinton’s famous cat. Other pets are given to the President and his family as gifts during their time in the White House. For example, President Hoover’s son was given two alligators. Clearly the gifts are  not always the most suitable of pets. In fact some of them were so difficult to handle that alternative homes had to be found for them. When the king of Siam gave President Buchanan a herd of elephants, the large visitors had to be donated to the local zoo.

One of the most obvious things that comes to light as one reads this collection of tales, is that the pets described very often gave their owners the much needed love and support that they needed to do their job well. For some, their pets were a comfort in hard times. President Harry Truman cynically said that if “you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Luckily for him he had Feller, his Cocker Spaniel, to be his friend.

This is a wonderfully amusing, laughable collection of the “snappiest,” the most “grizzly,” the “most talkative,” and the “most secret” pets who have ended up in the White House. All these mosts, biggests, bests, tinniests, and cleanest animals have a wonderful story that goes with them. Accompanied by David A. Johnson’s wonderful mood-setting paintings which have a definite subtle wackiness of their own, this is a picture book to pore over again and again, and to read aloud to the whole family.