Boning up on Christmas Customs: First Dog's White House Christmas by J. Patrick Lewis and Beth Zappitello
ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A DOG THAT HAD FOUND THE PERFECT PLACE TO LIVE!
Bo the Portuguese water spaniel is well settled in a the White House. He naps on the oval rug in the Oval Office, birdwatches from the window of the Blue Room, chases down missed jump shots in the White House gym, and "helps" the First Lady with her garden on the South Lawn.
But Christmas is coming, and when First Dog spots a stack of invitations for the local diplomatic corps to the annual White House reception, he can't resist pencilling in a slight change to the first sentence:
"YOU AND A CANINE GUEST ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO ATTEND THE WHITE HOUSE CHRISTMAS GALA."
Formalities taken care of, Dog gets busy with his duties, drawing up a to-do list of plans for canine treats, a White House tour, and a special Doggie Dash on the Front Lawn.
At last the big day comes, and Dog takes his place in the reception line amongst a set of well-dressed First Family legs to greet his guests, and when the ambassador's canine escorts are all present, he takes the group around the President's House to see the sights--over 50 Christmas trees, the Blue Room with its four fireplaces ablaze and garlanded with festive greenery, and, of course, the piece de resistance, a model of the White House, done up in white chocolate, complete with the First Lady's garden on the lawn, historic furniture made of dark chocolate, a working chandelier, and even a tiny model of First Dog made from marzipan.
Best of all, Dog's guests share with the group the Christmas customs of their homelands. English Bulldog reminds him that his country gave the world the Christmas kiss custom, even if, as he ruefully admits, "No one will stand under the kisseltoe with ME!" The Newfoundland shares the Canadian custom of mumming for treats, the French Poodle provides a buche de Noel, and the Chihuahua points out that his own Mexico gave us the poinsettia and the pinata. The Turkish kangal dog points out that St. Nicholas came from his homeland, and the Aussie dingo reminds them all that he gets to celebrate Christmas in high summer with frisbee chasing and picnicking on the beach. First Dog takes special notice of that down-under custom:
"NOTE TO SELF: GET INVITED TO THAT DECEMBER DINGO DOGGIE DASH DOWN UNDER!"
First Dog's first-ever Canine Christmas Gala is a success, but when all the diplomats' dogs are ushered out into their limousines, there is still one more late-night White House visitor, one who comes not by limo but by sleigh. Yep, it's that ambassador from the North Pole and his canine guest, who leave the First Family's gifts around their tree. In fact, St. Nick's dog leaves his paw prints behind as he samples just a nibble, not of kibble, but of an actual corner of that chocolate White House model, along with a note of thanks for the cocoa and gingerbread chow Dog has left out for them.
"BO-HO-HO!" SINGS OUT THE EMISSARY FROM THE FAR NORTH.
"AND A MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!"
Following up on their 2009 introduction to the Presidential pooch, First Dog, authors Lewis and Zappitello's new First Dog's White House Christmas (Sleeping Bear Press, 2010) focuses solely on the doggie doings, with a Bo's eye-view of the White House. In Tim Bowers' illustrations, the First Family are only seen from the knees down, except for one shot of the First Lady's garden-glove-garbed right arm as she shoos First Dog away from her carrot seeds. Young social studies students will be intrigued by the tour of the White House, and teachers will appreciate the brief lessons on Christmas customs around the world which the visiting dogs provide. A great kick-off readaloud to their holiday units for preschoolers and primary graders and for dog lovers everywhere.