Wednesday, July 9, 2014

President Taft is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett

President Taft is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Rating: 4.5 stars

This is a book for kids who are completely SURE, absolutely POSITIVE, completely CONFIDENT that they hate books.  Because I dare--triple dog dare!--those kids to keep their arms folded in disgust and resist picking up this book.  It is just too big an invitation to partake in serious silliness.

You know the story: President Taft was a hefty fellow who allegedly got stuck in his own bathtub.  Poor guy, his most embarrassing moment is what parents and educators use to lure our kids into learning more about Presidents of the past...

Mac Barnett has taken that simple allegation and transformed a wild and silly romp of a story about Taft's time in the tub and how he gets out.  "Is this true?!" Lorelei and Ben asked, over and over, as we read the book.  They were reacting less to the story than the fantastic, colorful, hilarious illustrations created by one of our favorite illustrators, Chris Van Dusen.

According to this story, which I explained to my kids was "inspired by a true story," President Taft calls in different people to help him out, and they all have solutions to match their expertise.  The Secretary of Agriculture churns butter to help grease him out (Taft quips: "As soon as I'm out of the bath, I'll need a bath!"). The Secretary of State suggests a diet.  ("Blast it! I need something fast!") In each of these meetings, President Taft is naked in a surely cold bubble bath, his chubbiness exposed to those in the room and those reading the book.

Finally, with a big heave-ho, seven people pull him out and he catapults through the window, finally free but still very naked.  Bubbles help protect the innocent readers…  As everyone congregates and congratulates on the White House lawn, Taft meekly requests his bathrobe.

A wild and funny book, for sure!

(Confession:  To be honest, I really dislike watching embarrassing things.  There was a touch of that in the book for me, and I also felt a little badly hearing my kids laugh at a man's obesity.  I know, I know…way to bring a party down, Kate…!)

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