Great, fascinating, lighthearted fun.

A highly entertaining catalog of presidential pets and other White House animals.

An apocryphal remark by Harry S. Truman observes, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Why? Because, “As the president you are in charge of the WHOLE of the United States of America,” and “Citizens might not agree with your opinions, ideas, or political party.” While there have been over 100 dogs belonging to presidents and their families, an astonishing variety of other animals have been quartered at the White House. Both Calvin Coolidge’s wife, Grace, and Theodore Roosevelt’s family had quite a few. The names of members of presidential menageries are entertaining, from Boston Beans Coolidge (dog) to Misty Malarky Ying Yang Carter (cat) to Mooly Wooly Taft (cow) to Emily Spinach Roosevelt (snake). Andrew Jackson’s foulmouthed parrot makes an appearance along with the tigers given to Martin Van Buren (they were confiscated and given to a zoo). A gift of elephants to James Buchanan never arrived, but both John Quincy Adams and Herbert Hoover supposedly had alligators. The dozens of expressive, brightly colored, shaggy, scaly, toothy creatures in McGill’s charming cartoon illustrations seem to radiate good humor and cheerfulness. Backmatter names the pets belonging to every president (only James K. Polk and Donald Trump had no animals at all) and offers additional facts. Endpapers feature black-and-white photos of animals belonging to eight former commanders in chief.

Great, fascinating, lighthearted fun. (additional facts, selected sources) (Informational picture book. 3-9)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12269-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020


A gleeful game for budding naturalists.

Artfully cropped animal portraits challenge viewers to guess which end they’re seeing.

In what will be a crowd-pleasing and inevitably raucous guessing game, a series of close-up stock photos invite children to call out one of the titular alternatives. A page turn reveals answers and basic facts about each creature backed up by more of the latter in a closing map and table. Some of the posers, like the tail of an okapi or the nose on a proboscis monkey, are easy enough to guess—but the moist nose on a star-nosed mole really does look like an anus, and the false “eyes” on the hind ends of a Cuyaba dwarf frog and a Promethea moth caterpillar will fool many. Better yet, Lavelle saves a kicker for the finale with a glimpse of a small parasitical pearlfish peeking out of a sea cucumber’s rear so that the answer is actually face and butt. “Animal identification can be tricky!” she concludes, noting that many of the features here function as defenses against attack: “In the animal world, sometimes your butt will save your face and your face just might save your butt!” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gleeful game for budding naturalists. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781728271170

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023


From the Find Momo series , Vol. 7

A well-meaning but lackluster tribute.

Readers bid farewell to a beloved canine character.

Momo is—or was—an adorable and very photogenic border collie owned by author Knapp. The many readers who loved him in the previous half-dozen books are in for a shock with this one. “Momo had died” is the stark reality—and there are no photographs of him here. Instead, Momo has been replaced by a flat cartoonish pastiche with strange, staring round white eyes, inserted into some of Knapp’s photography (which remains appealing, insofar as it can be discerned under the mixed media). Previous books contained few or no words. Unfortunately, virtuosity behind a lens does not guarantee mastery of verse. The art here is accompanied by words that sometimes rhyme but never find a workable or predictable rhythm (“We’d fetch and we’d catch, / we’d run and we’d jump. Every day we found new / games to play”). It’s a pity, because the subject—a pet’s death—is an important one to address with children. Of course, Momo isn’t gone; he can still be found “everywhere” in memories. But alas, he can be found here only in the crude depictions of the darling dog so well known from the earlier books.

A well-meaning but lackluster tribute. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781683693864

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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