Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pennsylvania Avenue Pooch: Bo: America's Commander-in-Leash by Naren Aryal

Presidential pets have always been celebrities--from Richard Nixon's Checkers to George H.W. Bush's Millie and Spot, from FDR's Fala to Chelsea Clinton's Socks--all of whom have become famous by virtue of where they parked their paws at night. And 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has truly seen a parade of pets, from John Quincy Adams' alligator to Tad Lincoln's goat, LBJ's beagles, Him and Her, and Caroline Kennedy's pony, Macaroni.

And now there's a new pup in the White House, Bo Obama, who's featured in a new (frankly fictionalized) book, Bo, America's Commander in Leash, (Mascot Books, 2009) which highlights the daily life of the presidential pup, whom author Naren Aryal, with tongue in cheek, calls our Commander-In-Leash.

Rather than being a tell-all memoir, Bo's narrative takes the reader on an insider's tour of the White House, from the Oval Office, where Bo confesses to making off with the presidential letter opener, to the Rose Garden, where a Little League team gives Bo an official jersey, complete with his name. As he escorts us through the historic rooms inside, Bo tells us that the White House has been the home of every president (and presidential pet) except George Washington. Bo does take time off from the historical data to point out the First Family's own special places--the girls' swing set, Mrs. Obama's organic garden, the outdoor basketball court, and, of course, the President's favorite sports scene, the basement bowling alley, presumably reinforced for gutter balls.

Scenes for special events are not slighted, as Bo guides the reader through the lawn where the Easter Egg Roll is held annually, the site of the official Christmas tree and the site of the July 4 Cookout. Other upcoming events, such as the presidential pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey and the lighting of the Christmas tree get short shrift so that Bo can point with special pride to the institution of a new White House custom, the greening of the fountain for St. Patrick's Day, first observed this year by the proudly Irish first family (Don't believe it? Go here!)

Prominently placed fact boxes provide plenty of historic presidential lore for young students, making this little book a light-hearted read-aloud introduction to a study of the White House and its historic residents past and present. For more factual information about the First Pooch, see Koji Kondo's photo essay Bo Obama: First Dog of the United States of America or my earlier roundup of presidential puppy stories here.

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