Contrary to what its title might suggest, A Big Cheese For The White House is not about any of our presidents' rise to power. Candace Fleming once again takes a fascinating bit of historical trivia and renders it into a droll tale for young readers. In an introductory note, Fleming states that while the events are all true, the characters are not, and that she has taken some license, such as using the term White House rather than President's House, as it was known until the early 1800s. In this humorous story, the people of Cheshire learn that President Thomas Jefferson was eating cheese made in the town of Norton, Connecticut. Led by the wise and optimistic Elder John Leland, the Cheshire villagers rise to the challenge to outdo their rivals and create a bigger, better cheddar for President Jefferson to eat. With nearly everyone lending a hand, they use the milk of 934 cows, creating a cheddar weighing 1,235 pounds and standing four feet highÃbig enough that the president will never again need to serve Norton's cheese. Sure enough, by the time the cheese gets from Cheshire to Hudson, New York, to Washington, D.C., people are eagerly awaiting its arrival.
This book is brimming with colorful characters, like Goodwife Todgers, Humphrey Crock, and Farmer Fuzzlewit, who lend their time and talents to the effort. Only Phineas Dobbs, the resident naysayer and pessimist, repeatedly proclaims that It can't be done. S.
D. Schindler's illustrations perfectly mirror Fleming's wry, understated text. The color-washed pen and ink drawings create cartoon-like characters that are both realistic and humorously distinctive. Their unusual features and facial expressions match the quirky names Fleming has given them. Our country's archives are filled with examples of entrepreneurial spirit and stick-to-it-iveness, but this story is light, witty, and above all educational. Two themes emerge. One is that with enough hard work and cooperation anything is possible, and the other is that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
This book is so entertaining that children won't believe it is based on a real event. As parents will attest, any story that leads to an interest in history is a refreshing and welcome addition to the bookshelves. A Big Cheese For The White House is a delectable triumph for Fleming.
Lisa Horak is a freelance writer.