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"Pets at the White House" & "Christmas at the White House" Books

"These books should be on every person's gift list, regardless of age or nationality."
- Letitia Baldrige


Pets at the White House Book Cover

Pets at the White House, the second book from White House social expert Jennifer Pickens, is a spectacular view into one of the most historic homes in the world and all of its four-legged, beaked, and pawed inhabitants. With charm, wit, and compelling photographs, Pickens reveals how pets have played an important role at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue throughout the decades, not only by providing companionship to the Presidents and their families, but also by humanizing and softening their political images. Foreword by Barbara Bush.

Christmas at the White House Book Cover

Christmas at the White House beautifully documents the lavish public and private Christmas decorations, celebrations, themes, and traditions spanning half of a century inside the world’s most famous address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Illustrated with more than 500 exquisite photographs, most of which have never been viewed by the public before, this 408 page book is the first documented and published history of fifty years and nine different administrations beginning in the early 1960s with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who initiated formal Christmas themes at the White House. Foreword by Laura Bush.

 

BUY the books online here:

 

These books are also available at:

Barnes & Noble

Neiman Marcus

The White House Historical Association (202) 737-8292

and also at Presidential Libraries and specialty bookstores across the country.


BOOK REVIEWS

ForeWord Reviews - Clarion Review

Pets at the White House: 50 Years of Presidents and Their Pets

Jennifer B. Pickens

Fife & Drum Press

978-0-615-58063-0

Five Stars (out of Five)

In Pets at the White House, Jennifer Boswell Pickens offers a delightful series of anecdotes and photographs of our nation’s First Pets, creating an endearing volume that will appeal to animal lovers and presidential theorist alike.

            Although her account officially starts with the Kennedy years, Pickens also provides background details on the animals kept by earlier presidents, from Washington’s donkeys to Zachary Taylor’s horse, which was often, spotted grazing on the White House lawn.  From President Taft’s cow, Pauline Wayne to Tad Lincoln’s turkey, a forerunner of the annual Thanksgiving pardoned turkey, seemingly no animal has been overlooked.  Pickens shares both legends and documented tales of astounding variety of animals that have made their homes with our nation’s First Families.  She reveals details about pets whose presence helped humanize presidential hopefuls and ensure election, and those whose constant companionship became part of their owner’s public images.

            “If you want a friend in Washington, get at dog,” President Truman famously commented.  Pickens agrees.  Her theory that “Animals have played a role in forming perceptions of the character and personalities of our Presidents” is supported by both the stories and the photographs she includes in her book.  The Kennedy family’s “menagerie of animals, ranging from dogs, cats, birds, and hamsters to ponies, parakeets, ducks and more,” for instance, is iconic.  Few who remember the early 1960’s are unfamiliar with photos of Caroline sitting atop her pony, Macaroni.  Perhaps less familiar are the Kennedy’s dogs and Jacqueline Kennedy’s essay contest, the winners of which received puppies from a litter those dogs produced. Similar tales about other First Families provided more charming and warm-hearted particulars that reveal the often hidden personalities of the many famous people who have occupied the White House.

            That the Nixon family’s poodle ate some of the fist from Lady Bird Johnson’s small goldfish pond or that the Ford family’s cat did not like Henry Kissinger are not matters of great national import, but they certainly are entertaining details, and readers are invited to draw their own conclusions about their significance.  Whether President Reagan’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Rex, was political asset some claim, “helping him dodge questions from the press,” does not even matter.  The fact that Rex reacted to the rumoured ghost in the Lincoln Bedroom and received a substantial fan mail from the public is far more telling.

            George and Barbara Bush’s dog Millie wrote her own book and raised more than a million dollars for literacy causes, and the Clinton’s cat Socks not only had his own books, but also starred on the White House’s web page.  No one believes that either Millie or Socks actually wrote anything, yet people relate to the famous pets much as they do to their own less-celebrated special friends.  America is a pet-friendly nation whose citizens seem to expect their leaders to share their love of animals.

            Pickens has created a delightful book.  Its photos, many taken by White House staff photographers, are wonderful, and the accompanying text, although brief, is revelatory and entertaining.  Pets at the White House is sure to be enjoyed by America’s millions of pet lovers and appreciate by those who follow the lives of nation’s First Families.

Cheryl Hibbard

 

ForeWord Reviews - Clarion Review

Christmas at the White House: Reflections from America’s First Ladies

Jennifer B. Pickens

Fife and Drum Press

978-0-615-28764-5

Five Stars (out of Five)

The White House: it is both the most recognized home in the United States and, in some ways, the most mysterious.  At the forefront of American history for so many years, the mansion is infused with generations of holiday traditions, but the number of people who actually get to glimpse the December White House in all its decorative glory is very small.

            Jennifer B. Pickens visited the White House for the first time in 2004.  She was so impressed with First Lady Laura Bush’s “A Season of Merriment and Melody” theme that Pickens wanted to share the joyous experience with her friends and family.  She was disappointed to discover that no book had been written about Christmas at the White House and decided to remedy the gap.  The result is a collection of charming photographs and detailed descriptions of the efforts of nine recent First Ladies to make the White House festive and enchanted during the holiday season.  Pickens also includes excerpts from the First Ladies’ own reflections.

            Pickens’ description of the decorations, along with the work that goes into them, are thorough and enjoyable.  Not only does she show talent at choosing words and phrases, but she also includes a host of fascinating facts about things like the weight of the traditional gingerbread house, for example.  Charmingly, she manages to show glimpses of the presidents and their families as they celebrate: a playful picture of Nancy Reagan sitting on Santa’s lap (who happens to be President Reagan), and a picture of George W. Bush decorating a cookie in the White House kitchen.

            This delightful collection of essays and photographs is refreshingly apolitical.  Pickens only seems to be concerned with enchantment and beauty, which is evident in a paragraph about Christmas in President Nixon’s White House: “The vibrant décor contrasted with the dark mood of the political scene, where events were unfolding that would lead to the President’s resignation in the coming year.  Yet the First Lady found comfort in a bird’s nest that she discovered in the branches of the eighteen-foot tree.  During a press tour she called it an ‘an omen, a sign of very good luck.  I’ve heard it forever that if you get a tree with a nest it’s good luck.”

            Christmas at the White House has wide appeal and is sure to delight lovers of Christmas and Americana.

Andi Diehn