President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath and Everyone Is Losing Their Collective ... You Know.

I find it interesting that the most negative reviews of this book often start out with, "Maybe I just don't have a sense of humor."  Clearly, these readers are not completely out of the loop, because they recognize that they do not have a sense of humor.

If you are looking for a serious, thoughtful picture book, do not pick up a book by Mac Barnett.  His work is quirky and hilarious and irreverently funny.  A lot of it is adult-directed as well.  So why people are expecting a Very Serious Story with A Lot of Historicity and Thoughtful Discussion of President Taft's Many Fantastic Accomplishments from Mac Barnett???

Actually, Barnett does provide notes at the end AND he mentions some of Taft's accomplishments as well.  They're not ignored.  If you feel very strongly about President Taft's achievements (as some have enumerated ad infinitum in other reviews), you can share that with your child when reading this book.  Or, you can skip reading this book, and just tell your child about all the things Taft did. 

Others have actually said this book encourages bullying and is itself bullying President Taft.  Bullying is systematic behavior.  That's a serious charge.  We are so focused on bullying in our culture today that somehow the representation of someone in a book who is part of a marginalized group automatically becomes "bullying."  *One* character in this book brings up Taft's weight, and Taft dismisses him right away.  Yes.  President Taft was a large man.  He was fat.  It would be bizarre to depict him in a picture book as not fat.  And if anyone says that it's just my "thin privilege" speaking, you don't know me.

I think most of the humor in this book comes, not from President Taft's size, as other readers have suggested, but from the messiness of government and presidential succession.  (Yes, I know, Barnett does not go in the correct order, nor was the Amendment even an Amendment back when Taft was President, but adults will recognize the concept right away.  And guess what?  THIS IS FICTION.  Cripes).  In one scene, the Secretary of the Treasury shrieks, "Throw money at the problem!"  The Secretary of the Interior (which, let's face it, isn't the most glamorous or well-known seat) is transformed into a sort of Zen-Hippie guru.

In the end, it's Taft's wife who figures out how to solve the problem where a bunch of dudes failed.  Ha.


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