“Along with children, First Ladies, and presidents, / the executive mansion had notable residents.”
The veteran versifier offers new stanzas on select animals who occupied the White House (often only briefly) or were at least associated with the chief executives. Readers are likely to be impressed by the sheer variety—not just horses, cats, and dogs in abundance, but a mockingbird that Thomas Jefferson “bought from a slave for five shillings,” John Quincy Adams’ alligator and his wife’s silkworms, Benjamin Harrison’s possums, Teddy Roosevelt’s wild menagerie, and more. Singer writes in casual but controlled metrics that lend each poem a fresh, individual character. She also broadens her general theme both by frequently commenting on the experiences or characters of the animals’ presidential owners (“In the White House, / a mouse is not a welcome resident. / Occasionally, neither / is the sitting president”) and adding observations at the end that will resonate with pet owners far from the nation’s capital and several years away from voting age. In lengthy endnotes she adds still more. McAmis uses clipped bits of paper and found materials to create low-relief collages for each poem. Though he depicts Calvin Coolidge’s pair of lion cubs as tigers, the animals and human figures throughout (the latter all white) have homey, domesticated looks.
A popular topic explored with humor and respect for its furred, feathered, and four- (more or less) legged cast. (bibliography) (Picture book/poetry. 6-9)