As with Ben Franklin (2011) and Abe Lincoln (2015), Schroeder and O’Brien employ the alphabet to pair lesser-known tidbits with humorous ink-and-watercolor caricatures to, in this case, present some of the people, places, and politics associated with the nation’s capital.
Although each letter has multiple entries, some are relegated to a half page while others are assigned two. There are interesting choices for “X,” such as the panda Mei Xiang, and the X-1 and X-15 planes in the Air and Space Museum. Humans include Benjamin Banneker, the African-American surveyor of the district’s boundaries, and Glenn Sundby, the white acrobat who descended the Washington Monument steps on his hands. A claw-footed, Capitol-shaped bathtub whimsically highlights 1860 amenities in the dusty building’s basement. Some details are summarized to the point of misleading; for instance, the statement that when black contralto Marian Anderson was barred from singing in Constitution Hall, she “simply changed the venue” is not accurate. (Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband intervened to procure the Lincoln Memorial.) Also, it is not possible to verify the rumor that underground tunnels stretch from the Capitol to the White House, as O’Brien depicts them. Quotes from figures as diverse as Shirley Chisholm, Groucho Marx, and Dan Quayle provide additional perspectives.
Quibbles aside, this will find a receptive audience with trivia buffs, tourists, and residents of all ages. (Informational picture book. 6-12)