No amount of squeezing and shimmying or hefting and stretching will do: President Taft is stuck in the bath. Even if the entire event may not be true, Barnett turns the nonetheless legendary story into a hilarious cabinet-level fiasco as the president calls in one secretary after another to help, with the secretary of agriculture ready to grease the sides with butter, and the secretary of war even offering to blow up the tub. Only the level-headed First Lady suggests all the assembled men pull Taft out of the bath at once. The combination of Barnett's repetitive assonance ("‘Double blast!' said Taft. ‘Blast and drat!'") and Van Dusen's gouache caricature illustrations (with strategically placed water and bubbles) sets the hilarious tone. A concluding author's note reveals an archival photo of four men sitting in Taft's custom-built bathtub for the White House and presents the actual facts pertaining to the president and his numerous commissioned bathtubs. Studying the presidency need never be dull again. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
As presidential legend has it, the generously proportioned William Howard Taft once became lodged in his tub. In this pictorial re-enactment, Barnett (Extra Yarn) and Van Dusen (King Hugo's Huge Ego) imagine the undignified predicament: " ‘Blast!' said Taft. ‘This could be bad.' " First Lady Nellie Taft discovers the awkward situation and, at Taft's command, summons the vice president and cabinet secretaries for help. Van Dusen depicts the mustached, apoplectic president scrunched with knees to chest; in gouache caricatures, he emphasizes Taft's ample flesh and visualizes the staffers' dubious solutions (such as greasing the tub with fresh-churned butter or blowing it "into smithereens"). Splashes and bubbles protect Taft's modesty, just barely. (Readers may be reminded of Audrey and Don Wood's cheeky King Bidgood's in the Bathtub, though Bidgood didn't want to leave his porcelain throne.) Barnett's afterword questions whether this embarrassing event happened ("Maybe. Maybe not") and describes the president's multiple custom-made fixtures: "President Taft denied ever commissioning a special Taft-sized tub.... He was lying." Although there's considerably more naked flesh on display then in the average picture book, there's no denying the riveting spectacle of Taft's struggle. Ages 4–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Mar.)
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