Sunday, June 17, 2012

The First Pup: The Real Story of How Bo Got Into the White House by Bob Staake

The First Pup: The Real Story of How Bo Got Into the White House by Bob Staake

Rating: 4 stars

You know that Obama has a dog named Bo.  And you also probably know that they got him after hunting for just the right dog.  But looky here--a children's book to give you and your kids the whole story.

That story:  Obama gets elected, his family cheers, he tells everyone he's going to get a dog.  No one is more excited (about the dog part) than Sasha and Milia, who quickly turn the search into a research project.  They hunt high and low but, after many months, are still dogless.  Meanwhile, Senator Kennedy gets a Portuguese water dog from a breeder.  One of the puppies from the same litter gets returned to the breeder; the pup and first home weren't the right fit.  Quickly that same puppy finds his place in the real First Home and the First Family and Bo (named after Bo Diddley, sort of) live happily ever after.

The funniest part of this book are these lines: "The senator also knew that Malia was allergic to most dogs, but that Portuguese water dogs are hypoallergenic."  Ah, yes.  Poor Malia's allergies are now etched in a children's book!  It's definitely 2012.  My kids didn't miss a beat with the mention of allergies, thanks to peanut allergies and hay allergies and cashew allergies and egg allergies and gluten allergies and...

Bob Staake is definitely a fantastic artist, and a fine author.  His artwork and books (click here to see books of his I've reviewed) is best when cars are involved, I think.  His artwork is not my all-time favorite, personally, but my kids gravitate towards it, especially the pages that are jam-packed with interesting things to see, as if there is a look-and-find book within a story book.  But this book about Bo is a little different, a bit more mainstream, and I like it a lot.  His images of Obama--tall, smiling, proud--are spot-on.

It seems funny to have a "politics" label on my blog about children's book (even as I sit 30ish miles from the White House), but then I think: why are we reading books to our kids?  Sure, to increase vocabulary, to create a bond between kid and caregiver, to understand the rhythm of a story.  But also to expand their mind--to open their minds to possibilities that are beyond their day-to-day.  To start a conversation with them about something different, new, important.  A story about the dog at the White House is really an opportunity to talk about the President, about being a leader, about how our country is organized.

We read this book over dinner a few days ago.  Lorelei told me afterward: "You could be the first girl President, Mommy!"  I told her, "No, Lorelei, I'm sorta too old, and I've chosen a different path.  But you, YOU could be the first girl President.  You could do it."  She chewed on that while she chewed on her meatballs.  And hopefully she'll be thinking about it--and considering it--for a long time.  

So thanks, Bo and Bob, for a little tale about a big job, and for making my daughter (and sons) think about both.

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