A Christmas Tree in the White House


Written by Gary Hines, Illustrated by Alexandra Wallner

Henry Holt and Company, 1998

President Roosevelt dashed down the hallway, his six children tumbling behind him.

What’s up with this tree?  It’s the secret property of the President’s two sons

Theodore Roosevelt tells his family that they will not be having a Christmas tree in their house, in order to set a good conservation example.  The two youngest boys, Quentin and Archie, are very upset about this, so they go speak to their aunt, who helps them smuggle a small tree in through a window.  They hide the tree in their closet and decorate it with paper chains and stars.  But when their father discovers the tree, he takes them to Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot, who surprises them all by pointing out that it can actually be good for a forest to thin out the younger trees.  President Roosevelt lets them keep the tree in their room and they all celebrate Christmas morning there.

Why doesn't this picture feature any of the many Roosevelt pets?

Why doesn’t this picture feature any of the many Roosevelt pets?

Although some details were fabricated, the bulk of this story actually happened during Teddy Roosevelt’s time in the White House.  He was, by all accounts, a wonderful father who loved to have fun with his kids.  Author Gary Hines conveys his playfulness while also showing how serious he took his conservation efforts and illustrator Alexandra Wallner does a great job of capturing both the first family and the time period in which they lived.  The end of the book features a photograph of the Roosevelt family and some additional information about the president, his children and this story in particular.  I was already a fan of President Roosevelt and I came away from this book with a greater appreciation of him as a father.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that sometimes a thing that seems wrong can be the right thing to do, which is why you need all the facts before making a decision.


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