Wednesday, January 23, 2013


 I'm always fascinated by how books can help people see the world in different ways. That definitely happened to me this week.  On Saturday, I blogged about Charles R. Smith's new book, BRICK BY BRICK. Monday, I found THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT, by Suzanne Slade. Slade adapted the old folk tale, "The House that Jack Built," into a fun, multi-genre picture book that recaps the building of the White House. The left half of each two-page spread is factual, a paragraph or two, and the right half includes the rhyme. In one of the early pages, for example, we learn that there was a contest to draw the plan for the President's House. The winner, James Hoban, received $500. On the right side, there's a portion of the cumulative rhyme.
This is the design,
that would stand for all time
That was drawn for the lot,
that grand scenic spot,
for the President's House that George built.
Throughout the book, the spotlight is on Washington. He's a hands-on, problem solving hero. When builders discover that there is not going to be enough stone, Washington decides that the White House will be two stories, rather than three. Money is tight so Washington suggests that they use wood instead of marble for the floors. And then, after all of his hard work, George Washington never even got to live in the White House! (Oh, and in case you are wondering, for seventy years, it was the largest house in the U(nited states. The cost was $272,000 or 4.9 million today). 

Having just read BRICK BY BRICK, I kept looking for a discussion of the slaves who did the actual building of the house. I was surprised when they were mentioned in only a very cursory way.  I am thinking that it would be really interesting to pair the two books to help kids explore author's perspective. I'm planning on trying it in a fourth grade classroom next week.

1 comment:

Linda B said...

Glad to know about these books & will share with some teachers, one of whom is studying American History with his class this year. I'm going to the capitol tomorrow with them. Thanks,Carol. Great to notice & point out details like the discrepancy between the books.