Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - a look inside the White House - 1.20.21

Since today is Inauguration Day, I thought it was most fitting to share this title.  While I am hoping today is a peaceful day, this book is fun and a delight to read.

Exploring the White House: Inside America's Most Famous Home
Exploring the White House: Inside America's Most Famous Home
by Kate Andersen Brower
published by Quill Tree Books

When I first heard about this title, I thought it was going to be a picture book with lots of illustrations of the White House.  Instead, it's a chapter book that is stuffed with secrets and insider knowledge of what it's like to work inside the most famous residence in America!  Lots of black and white photographs, which I almost wish I had the digital copy of the book so I could enlarge the pictures and see them in more detail!

Ever wonder about the people who keep this mansion going?  This book tells it all!  It digs into the more unknown facts you might otherwise know about the White House.  Like, you probably know there are gardners, but did you know there is a florist and a florist's staff for the White House?  There's even a room that is used just for their beautiful creations!  And of course there is the White House chef, but did you know there is a pastry chef - now that's a good person to have around!  

But more than the different jobs and titles of the workers, what about them as people?  Author Kate Andersen Brower gives us an insider's look at the relationships the First Family has with the many people that work inside their home.  No political affiliations inside!  Regardless of politics, the people who work inside the White House know how special it is to be a part of this home and they focus on keeping the First Family happy and give them some sense of "normalcy" inside their home.  No matter what is happening, their privacy comes first.  As a result, the workers often become their own family since rarely can they speak about what is happening at work outside of work!  As you read this book, you really understand how it is not a "job" for these staffers, but a new way of life.  The privilege of working in the White House is very important to them and it is highly valued.  Want to work at the White House?  You won't find a job in the want ads!  All of the positions are generally hired by referrals.  It's important because of the level of privacy that is needed for the position, knowing ahead of time about someone's character is an important part of the hiring process!

Some of the fun facts:
  • George H. W. Bush loved playing horseshoes and would often call over to the Usher's Office to see if anyone was available to play.  Housekeeper Linsey Little was a favorite competitor and often played with the President.
  • Keeping house for the President isn't always easy.  Like the staffers for President Johnson.  Apparently he hated when lights were left on, so he would turn them off... without checking to see if anyone was actually in the room or not!  So the staff got used to carrying flashlights with them in case they ever found themselves in the dark!
  • The chapter about "moving day" was especially interesting, considering today is moving day!  It made me think if some of the traditions mentioned were going to be broken today... for example, usually the staff gathers in the State Dining Room and the President and First Lady walk through the line to say their goodbyes.  Can't help but wonder if that will happen today!  The goodbyes by George and Barbara Bush and the Clintons were touching.

This book is not only fun to read, it is also a perfect read aloud.  As I read, I was constantly telling little facts to my family because you want to talk about them!  With all that is going on with Washington DC and the White House, this is a perfect time to share this book!  A must have for elementary, intermediate, and middle school libraries.

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