Friday, December 4, 2009

REVIEW: What to Do about Alice?

Kerley, B.  (2008).  What to Do about Alice?  How Alice Roosevelt broke the rules, charmed the world, and drove her father Teddy crazy!  New York:  Scholastic Press.


First off, how fun is the subtitle of this picturebook.  It manages to get a child or two to smile all while informing the reader exactly who Alice Roosevelt is the daughter of.

30-Second Plot Summary:  As for the plot, Teddy Roosevelt is having trouble handling his oldest daughter, Alice, despite all of his accomplishments and difficult jobs.

This historical picturebook does an excellent job of keeping Alice the focus of story, but still informing the reader about the life and achievements of President Teddy Roosevelt.  While the book focuses on her childhood, the narrative does follow Alice into adulthood.  On each page, both the text and the illustrations incorporate how fiery and fun Alice is.

Edwin Fotheringham's illustrations are fun.  I particularly like the image of Teddy sweating over his daughter early on:

I also LOVE the last illustration on the page.  But I don't want to give anything away.  I'll just say that it's fun use of Mount Rushmore.

While the headlines of many newspapers are drawn into the text, the story doesn't include any actual photos.  This keeps the story light and fun, but still...perhaps a teacher would be able to share some historical images with students, to help reinforce that Alice is a real person.


This picturebook has the built-in historical lesson of teaching students about Teddy Roosevelt's personality and accomplishments and of his relationship with his daughter.  It lends itself to contemporary comparisons with President Obama and his daughters.  A teacher can also discuss the responsibilities of a goodwill ambassador.

Since Alice's whereabouts were often reported in the newspaper and her name was often referenced in pop culture (Teachers, Bring in examples of this!), readers can also describe celebrities that remind them of Alice.

Kerley goes into the fact that Alice's mother died when Alice was only a couple of days old and the fact that she had to wear leg braces for several years, but that Alice didn't want pity.  A teacher could focus on these dimensions of Alice's life and encourage young readers to think positively and not wallow when things go wrong.

If a teacher wanted to use a feminist lens with students, he or she could draw attention to the fact that Alice was a tomboy and resisted pressures to conform to a restrictive idea of femininity.  A teacher could draw female readers' attention to some of their own more tomboyish activities.  From their students could write their own autobiographies or another student's biography, following the style of Kerley's writing.

Quotes of Note:

"Theodore Roosevelt had a small problem."

"He'd bagged a grizzly bear, captured outlaws, governed the state of New York, and served as vice president of the United States, and still he had a problem.
Her name was Alice.  Alice Lee Roosevelt was hungry to go places, meet people, do things."

"The family moved between New York and Washington, D.C., following Father's jobs.  Wherever they went, Alice ate up the world."

"She did not want anyone saying "the poor little thing!"

"She came up with her own solution for her education.
She said to Father, "Let me loose in your library."

Tasty Rating:  !!!!


  1. This book sounds absolutely adorable - it makes me wish I was a teacher! I wonder if I could use it for teaching english as a second language.

  2. I really enjoyed it. You probably could. You might have to provide some more context for the history and humor, but it'd be possible, especially since there's some use of repetition.



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