Written by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Illustrated by David Small
Scholastic Press, 2006
If you want to serve your country, Washington, D.C., is a good place to be.
What made this author famous? Edward Kennedy represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate from 1962 to 2009.
The book’s narrator is Splash, a Portuguese Water Dog, who belongs to Senator Edward Kennedy. He tells the story of how Senator Kennedy decided to get a dog and drove to a farm in Virginia to pick just the right one. Splash (so called because of his love of water) took to the Senator right away and is chosen to go back to Washington with the Kennedys. When the Kennedys get a second dog (named Sunny), it becomes Splash’s responsibility to teach her all about Washington. Splash accompanies Senator Kennedy to his office every day and listens to him talk with his staff about their work in the government. He gets to ride the underground tram that takes them to the Capitol and sits quietly during press conferences. He poses for pictures with visiting schoolchildren and listens while the House and Senate debate an education bill in committee. When the discussion gets heated, Splash barks and it breaks the tension a little. When Senator Kennedy goes to vote on the bill, Splash has to wait behind as no dogs are allowed on the Senate floor, but he watches the nearby TV when his Senator is speaking. At the end of the day, they go home and the two dogs play together before settling down to sleep before another big day in Washington.
Although this book appears to be about a dog, it’s pretty easy to see that author Edward Kennedy has actually written a children’s book all about the political process. Through Splash’s eyes, we follow his Senator’s discussion of an education bill as it’s discussed in the Senator’s office and in committee, and then passed into law on the floor of the Senate. The end of the book features a detailed step-by-step explanation of how a bill becomes a law (for those of us who didn’t grow up with Schoolhouse Rock) as well as a page of background information on Senator Kennedy and Splash, whose real name is Champion Amigo’s Seventh Wave. Incidentally, Splash came from the same breeder as Bo, the current White House dog, who was a gift from the Kennedys to the Obamas.
The ink and watercolor artwork, from Caldecott-winning illustrator David Small, capture Splash’s life in Washington beautifully, showing us lots of famous DC sights and monuments. I love that we get to see Senator Kennedy taking time throughout the day to play with Splash and make sure he’s happy. I actually didn’t know anything about Splash before reading this book and when I looked up more information about him, I was even more charmed. The details of the political process in the story are just right for introducing a little one to some of these concepts and systems. All around, I enjoyed this story quite a bit.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that, no matter how demanding your job is, it’s a little easier with a good friend by your side.