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 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images.


The life journey of the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court and the incidents that formed him.

Thurgood Marshall grew up in segregated Baltimore, Maryland, with a family that encouraged him to stand for justice. Despite attending poor schools, he found a way to succeed. His father instilled in him a love of the law and encouraged him to argue like a lawyer during dinner conversations. His success in college meant he could go to law school, but the University of Maryland did not accept African American students. Instead, Marshall went to historically black Howard University, where he was mentored by civil rights lawyer Charles Houston. Marshall’s first major legal case was against the law school that denied him a place, and his success brought him to the attention of the NAACP and ultimately led to his work on the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education, which itself led to his appointment to the Supreme Court. This lively narrative serves as an introduction to the life of one of the country’s important civil rights figures. Important facts in Marshall’s life are effectively highlighted in an almost staccato fashion. The bold watercolor-and-collage illustrations, beginning with an enticing cover, capture and enhance the strong tone set by the words.

A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images. (author’s note, photos) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6533-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Captivating—and not a bit terrifying.


From the Block Books series

Catering to young scientists, naturalists, and Shark Week fans–to-be, this visually arresting volume presents a good deal of information in easily digested bites.

Like others in the Block Books series, this book feels both compact and massive. When closed, it is 5.5 inches across, 6.5 inches tall, and nearly 2 inches thick, weighty and solid, with stiff cardboard pages that boast creative die cuts and numerous fold-out three- and four-panel tableaux. While it’s possible it’s not the only book with a dorsal fin, it certainly must be among the best. The multiracial cast of aquarium visitors includes a Sikh man with his kids and a man of color who uses a wheelchair; there they discover the dramatic degree of variations among sharks. The book begins with a trip to a shark exhibit, complete with a megalodon jaw. The text points out that there are over 400 known types of sharks alive today, then introduces 18 examples, including huge whale sharks, tiny pocket sharks, and stealthy, well-camouflaged wobbegongs. Reef sharks prowl the warm waters of the surface, while sand tiger sharks explore shipwrecks on the ocean floor. Bioluminescent catsharks reside at the bottom of an inky black flap that folds down, signifying the deepest ocean depths, where no sunlight penetrates. Great whites get star treatment with four consecutive two-page spreads; their teeth and appetite impress but don’t horrify. The book does a wonderful job of highlighting the interconnectedness of species and the importance of environmental stewardship.

Captivating—and not a bit terrifying. (Board book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4119-7

Page Count: 84

Publisher: abramsappleseed

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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