Barnett spins a probably apocryphal but nonetheless hilarious incident into a Cabinet-level crisis.
In a natural extension of his rotund cameo in Judith St. George and David Small’s So You Want To Be President! (2000), the heaviest commander in chief finds himself immovably stuck in his (standard-sized) tub one morning. “Blast!” he fumes. “This could be bad.” Forced to seek help, he calls on his vice president and the secretaries of state, agriculture, war and the rest—but their advice (“Dynamite!” “A huge vat of butter”) have obvious flaws. Will he be forced to resign? Like Small in the aforementioned Caldecott winner, Van Dusen goes for a humorous, rather than mean, caricature. He depicts the porky president as a corpulent, bare figure sporting artfully placed suds, plus a fierce glower and a bristling handlebar mustache over multiple chins. Eventually, the luxuriously appointed White House bathroom fills up with likewise caricatured officials. At the suggestion of the (petite) first lady, they pull together so effectively that they send their lardy leader rocketing out the window. Noting that when Taft denied having a bathtub custom made “[h]e was lying,” Barnett closes with a summary of his own research topped by an actual photograph of the oversized tub with several men posing inside.
The soapiest, splashiest frolic featuring a head of state since Audrey and Don Wood’s King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub (1985). (Picture book. 6-9)