Friday, July 13, 2012

Book #195: What to Do About Alice: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Crazy! by Barbara Kerley, Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Image from
This picture book biography follows Theodore Roosevelt’s high spirited daughter, Alice, who spent her life, “eating up the world.” Beginning with her childhood and continuing through her marriage to congressman, Nicholas Longworth, Alice’s life is never dull. Although her behavior - dancing all night, owning a pet snake, driving fast cars, traveling the world - was looked upon as outrageous at the time, she became a national celebrity. People all over the country read the papers each morning to see what “Princess Alice” had been up to. In addition, she became one of her father’s most trusted advisors in his political career.

The digital illustrations capture the spirit and vitality of Alice’s character in deep velvet reds, creamy yellows and greens, and of course, “Alice Blue.” Often the text and illustrations egg one another on; the text briefly mentions an event and the illustrations show how Alice brought her unique signature to the situation. Fotheringham deftly captures Alice at many different ages, from curly-headed baby to married woman, however he makes sure Alice is always recognizable. The narrative is told in third person and moves along swiftly. The text is grounded in research and the endpapers at the back of the book include an author’s note with more information about Alice and her father, as well as citations for each of the quotations used in the text.

When you read the book, make sure to define words, terms, and concepts, such as "shriveled" and "runabout." Pull out a world map and find all the places Alice visits in the book. Airplanes hadn’t been invented when Theodore Roosevelt was president, so talk about how Alice might have traveled to each of these locations.

This Sibert Honor Book is perfect for a unit about children of U. S. presidents (a sneaky way to learn about presidents). You might also study John and Caroline Kennedy, Chelsea Clinton, and the Obama girls.

Tie this book in with a music lesson by teaching the children the song, Alice Blue Gown, written for the stage musical, Irene, in 1919 and inspired by Alice Roosevelt Longworth. The lyrics are simple and the tune is easy to learn (scroll down to the last two paragraphs for the lyrics to the chorus featured in the video).

Get the kids up and moving by learning popular dances that Alice would have done, such as the Turkey Trot and the Two Step mentioned in the book, or simple ballroom dances like the Polka or the Waltz. You may want to have kids dance alone instead of in pairs, at least while they learn the steps. That way everyone can face the same direction and there’s less of a chance of accidentally hitting someone else. I couldn’t find good Internet resources for all of these dances, so I suggest checking your local library for a book or DVD on basic ballroom dancing.

Luckily Alice was very popular with the press, so there are many wonderful photographs of her throughout her life.


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