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Pets at the White House: 50 Years of Presidents and Their Pets Hardcover – September 1, 2012

5 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

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 theorists 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, forerunner of the annual Thanksgiving pardoned turkey, seemingly no animal has been overlooked. Pickens shares both legends and documented tales of an 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 owners’ public images.
“If you want a friend in Washington, get a 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 1960s 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 provide 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 fish 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 the political asset some claim, “helping him dodge questions from the press,” does not even matter. The fact that Rex reacted to the rumored ghost in the Lincoln Bedroom and received 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 appreciated by those who follow the the lives of the nation’s First Families.
--Cheryl Hibbard, Clarion ForeWord Reviews

About the Author

Jennifer Boswell Pickens is a White House social expert, speaker, and event planner. She has personally interviewed dozens of White House insiders, including First Families, social secretaries, chiefs of staff, presidential aides, and White House Executive Residence staff. Her first book, holiday top-seller Christmas at the White House, was the first to fully and accurately document the lavish public and private Christmas decorations, celebrations, themes, traditions, and memories of more than 50 years of First Families. And, like its predecessor, Pets at the White House includes intimate contributions from living former First Families. An accomplished historian, Pickens has served on the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board, Friends of the SMU Library, and on other civic and prominent boards.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Fife and Drum Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615580637
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615580630
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.8 x 11.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jennifer B. Pickens is the preeminent expert of Christmas at the White House and author of the book Christmas at the White House. She and her highly successful book have garnered national attention and have been featured on Fox News, and Oprah.com. The book was also named as a Top Ten Gift Book by USA Today.
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.
With a foreword written by former First Lady Laura Bush, this singular book has earned the devotion of six of the most recent United States First Ladies, all of whom penned introductions to their sections. In the book, you can read what Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush have to say about how they celebrated Christmas inside America's most special home.

Illustrated with more than 500 exquisite photographs, most of which have never been viewed by the public before, the 408 page book is the first documented and published history of 50 years and nine different administrations beginning in the early 1960s with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who initiated formal Christmas themes at the White House.

"This book should be on every person's gift list, regardless of age or nationality," says Letitia Baldrige, Jacqueline Kennedy's former White House Social Secretary, who wrote the introduction to the section on the Kennedy years. First Daughters Lynda Johnson Robb and Tricia Nixon Cox provided insights into what Christmas was like when they were at the Executive Mansion.

Author Jennifer Pickens interviewed dozens of White House insiders including First Families, social secretaries, chiefs of staff, chefs, florists, volunteers, artisans and more. The book also includes special features on the White House crèche, the selection of the official White House Christmas tree and many more time-honored traditions such as the annual gingerbread house, highlighted by lively anecdotes from renowned Executive Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier.

Christmas at the White House provides a spectacular view into one of the most historic homes in the world, during the most magical and beautiful time of the year!

Jennifer resides in Dallas, Texas with her family.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What a fabulous book! I have loved reading about the many various and unusual animals of the White House. There is information in this book that one does not get in normal history class! It provides an unusual and fascinating snapshot into history. I love the photographs, which are beautifully spread throughout the book and I've never seen before. The old photographs have been beautifully restored and the newer color photos take up sometimes a page and a half. They are quite stunning photos. This book lives on our coffee table and guests have enjoyed picking it up and looking through it. It is a gorgeous book that you will enjoy!
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Format: Hardcover
Wonderful table top book! Will appeal to the pet lovers in your family and the history lovers that seek that personal side of many of our United State's first families. A great book for all ages that can teach young children and still appeal to adults for interesting reading. The photos are second to none and the information not found anywhere else! It would make a great Christmas present or housewarming gift. It is currently on top of our family room coffee table.

John Stewart
Indianapolis, Indiana
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Format: Hardcover
Traditionally, the image of the White House is a stuffy, formal vision. Pets at the White House gives readers a view into the Presidents' families and personal lives. Pets seem to humanize people and they allow the average citizen to connect to these families. Candid photography really allows the viewer to see the role that these creatures play in the most powerful house in the country.

Did you know that one first lady had a pet raccoon? Bet you didn't. You will have to read this book in order to find out who had this unusual pet. Clearly dogs were the most popular pet, but do you know what breed seemed to be the most popular among all the commander in chiefs?

Again, thanks to netgalley.com and Fife and Drum Press for the advanced copy.
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Format: Hardcover
My children and I enjoyed looking through this book at all the wonderful photographs of former (and current!) Presidents and their beloved pets who have lived at the White House. There is a particularly well-developed section on the Kennedy years which had the dearest pictures of Caroline and JFK, Jr. as children with their many pets. Informational text is included, along with quote from many First Ladies about the role of pets in their lives. This was a keeper!

I received a free digital download of this book for review from Net Galley and Fife and Drum Press - thank you!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A beautiful book for both pet and history lovers. Pet lovers will enjoy the fun the White House pets brought to the American public throughout the years and the related stories provide another side of our Presidents ... Some will bring a tear to your eye while others will make you laugh out loud. Lots of great photos to enjoy as you pass through the last 50+ years of history, presidential occupants and pet pals.
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A book for anyone who likes dogs and other pets and is interested in White House/Presidential History! The pictures are fabulous.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
i ORDERED FOR A GIFT, SO I ONLY HAD TIME TO QUICKLY REVIEW IT BUT I WAS PROUD TO GIVE IT . THE PICTURES WERE VERY NICE AND I'M SURE IT HAD MANY INTERESTING THINGS IN IT. I AM NOT DISSAPOINTED THAT I ORDERED IT!
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Photos are beautiful and the text is very interesting. Really brings you back to the times that the various presidents served.
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