written by Suzanne Slade; illustrated by Rebecca Bond
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
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.
George Washington wanted to build a special house for the new country that he was now leading. He chose a wooded hill in Maryland that overlooked the Potomac River for the location. After thinking Pierre-Charles L'Enfant's design was too elaborate, Washington chose James Hoban's plan as the blueprint for the President's House. With a deadline of November 1, 1800, Washington rolled up his sleeves and added this work to his duties as president. Since he needed to be in the capital of Philadelphia, Washington designated Hoban to be the on-site manager for the new house. Being a surveyor himself, the President assisted Andrew Ellicott and Benjamin Banneker who were surveying the land for the future capital city. A large hole was filled with stone, wood, and sand for the foundation. On-site kilns were built to create the bricks needed for the walls. Quarries provided the stone for the outside. A sealer of water, lime, salt, glue, and rice was spread on the stone which made it white. In the Author's Note we learn that Theodore Roosevelt renamed the building the White House in 1901. George Washington died one year before President John Adams and his wife Abigail moved into the President's House, but his influence will be forever embedded in this building.
I always like to see nonfiction with a unique twist. There are plenty of books about George Washington and the White House available, but Suzanne Slade has managed to create a fresh path on this well worn soil. On the left side of the two page spread, you get narrative text. The right side is a historical spin on "The House That Jack Built". As you can see in the highlighted text above, this is a great opportunity for a shared reading experience with young readers. With the extra emphasis on nonfiction in this Common Core era, The House That George Built is a welcome addition. The back matter is terrific as well. There is a section titled The Changing President's House which details several additions that were made by presidents that succeeded George Washington. My favorite addition is an outdoor swimming pool added by President Gerald Ford in 1975. I remember thinking this was a big deal as a kid at that time. Now I wanted to live in the White House. The Author's Note provided other "new to me" information. I didn't know Thomas Jefferson had submitted a drawing, under a fake name, for the house. The House That George Built is a great resource for K-5 classrooms.