Illustrations by Chris Van Dusen
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: March 25, 2014
There are many myths surrounding our US Presidents. George Washington and the cherry tree. Honest Abe. Have you ever heard the one about President Taft who, despite having a special tub made for him, was still too large and got stuck in the bath? This story chronicles the late President's dilemma as he, his wife, and various government officials try to come up with a solution.
Part of me wants to say that this is a story in bad taste. After all, Van Dusen doesn't shy away from the many fat folds that encompassed Taft's girth. There are even two scenes, one involving a scuba diver in the tub (shudder) and one as Taft flies out of the tub that made me cringe. Also, isn't it just a little bit sad that the only thing we really seem to remember about Taft was how large he was?
However, I think kids will find it hysterical. Not only for its possible truth, but because Barnett tells the tale in a way that is reminiscent of the Tall Tales of old and isn't afraid to make the story just a little ridiculous. Then, at the end there is an author's note that includes some facts and a photo of Taft's bathtub. Captain Archie Butt (hahaha) in 1910 once said, "His [President Taft] sense of humor carries him over a good many pitfalls, and sometimes there is a touch of Lincoln in the way he makes use of anecdotes to illustrate a point." This leads me to believe that perhaps Taft himself would have gotten a kick out of this book and that is good enough for me.