White House Clubhouse
by Sean O'Brien
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Pub Date 03 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 30 Sep 2023
W. W. Norton & Company, Norton Young Readers
From a former White House speechwriter: a middle grade series following two First Daughters who team up with historical presidential children to make a difference.
Marissa and Clara’s mom is the newly elected president of the United States, and they haven’t experienced much freedom lately. While exploring the White House they discover a hidden tunnel that leads to an underground clubhouse full of antique curiosities, doors heading in all directions—and a mysterious invitation to join the ranks of White House kids. So they sign the pledge.
Suddenly, the lights go out, and Marissa and Clara find themselves at the White House in 1903. There they meet Quentin, Ethel, Archie, and Alice, the irrepressible children of President Theodore Roosevelt. To get back home, Marissa and Clara must team up with the Roosevelt kids “to help the president” and “to make a difference.”
White House Clubhouse is a thrilling and hilarious adventure that takes readers on an action-packed, cross-country railroad trip, back to the dawn of the twentieth century and the larger-than-life president at the country’s helm.
About the Author:
Sean O'Brien is a former White House speechwriter who now teaches at Georgetown University. He served as director of speechwriting to Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, and special assistant to President Barack Obama.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 11 members
Sisters Clara and Marissa are slowly settling into life as the daughters of newly elected president Julia Suarez, but doing so is not as easy as they would hope. Being followed by secret service and being treated differently by everyone they meet becomes tiring, not to mention trying to fit into their new home at the White House. When a chance discovery leads the girls to a secret room inside the walls of the White House, they find that previous presidential children have created a space where they can support one another from one administration to the next. After adding their names to a document alongside signatures of famous names from decades past, the girls go to return to their home, only to open the door into the year 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt was leading the United States. In order to return home, however, the girls must team up with Roosevelt's children to complete an important historical mission that will take them from sea to shining sea.
This first in the White House Clubhouse series introduces readers to sisters Clara and Marissa, who are in third and fifth grades, respectively. While they respect their mother's position as President, the girls are having difficulty residing in the spotlight and being followed and protected everywhere they go. Thus, the concept of a clubhouse wherein previous first children can help and support one another becomes a desirable idea, especially since there have not been a large number of these children throughout history. Using true historical events and people as a foundation, this book transports readers back in time to experience events from the past through an accessible and enjoyable lens. And, as the books are written by a previous White House staff member, the details included are thorough and accurate.
Younger middle grade readers who are comfortable with chapter books–especially series like The Magic Treehouse–will fall easily into this book. Ample white space and occasional black and white illustrations break up the text, and the action and dialogue included in the narrative keep the plot moving forward at a pleasant pace. No matter whether readers have a strong understanding of history or not, this book does an excellent job of incorporating historically relevant details within the context of a novel that will be readily enjoyed by middle graders. Alongside the historical mission the girls must complete are contemporary struggles of climate change and the destruction humans have wrought on the environment over the centuries, inspiring bigger ideas that children will contemplate both as they read the book and long after it ends. This is a high-quality series starter, and it promises a collection of books that will be excellent additions to libraries for younger middle grade readers.
Middle grade readers will adore this action-packed book about two contemporary presidential kids who travel back in time to meet President Teddy Roosevelt. I love how the author takes us to so many places - the White House, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. I enjoyed reading about these places during the early 20th century and could tell the author did a ton of research to get the historic places and people just right. President Roosevelt’s gregarious personality comes through, and his impish children were a delight. Kids will find one of the children to relate to and will learn history while reading something fun! The book does a great job at inspiring kids to realize that one person, even a child, can make a big difference. I can’t wait to see where the White House Clubhouse takes us next!