NONFICTION

Who Named Their Pony Macaroni?: Poems About White House Pets

Disney-Hyperion. Oct. 2019. 48p. bibliog. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484789995.
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Gr 1-3–Singer’s entertaining, educational poems revolve around presidents and their pets, from Calvin Coolidge’s lion cubs Budget Bureau and Tax Reduction to Alice Roosevelt’s garter snake Emily Spinach. Singer uses each president’s relationship to his animal companion as a reflection of his time in the White House and his administration. Each entry is accompanied by McAmis’s whimsical, cheerful collages of animals and presidents. The poems’ sing-song manner and upbeat tone echoes the rhythmic structure of nursery rhymes. In the poem “Andrew Johnson’s Mice” Singer writes, “Such was Andrew Johnson, who overreached, / got impeached. / Lonely, they say, and loudly decried, / perhaps that’s why he identified / with those unloved mice.” Singer avoids dissecting the darker parts of American history and provides vague references that may invite further inquiry. For example, in the opening poem about George Washington’s dogs, Singer mentions his “plantation.” In the poem about Thomas Jefferson’s mockingbirds, readers learn that he bought his pets “from a slave for five shillings.” The book concludes with a list of every president and his pets (or lack thereof) and a selected bibliography.
VERDICT Recommended for poetry collections and history classrooms. These quirky poems are meant to be shared.

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