So what would you like for dinner tonight?
Does mac & cheese sound good to you, or maybe spicy tacos? Are you a fan of chicken, or do you like steak better? What about vegetables?
President Franklin Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, was tired of fancy meals. Sick of steak and soup, she was hungry for just one thing and in “Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic” by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Victor Juhasz, you’ll see what she wanted.
Eleanor Roosevelt loved hot dogs. She loved them a lot, but when you’re the First Lady of the United States, meals are kind of different. Eleanor was particularly busy because her husband, The President, couldn’t get around very well — which meant that there was no time for weenie roasts.
The thing is, Eleanor never wanted to be First Lady. She was quite shy as a child, but she was a good listener. She made friends very easily and so, when the king and queen of England announced that they would visit the United States, Eleanor knew just what to do.
She’d throw an American-style picnic in their honor!
No doubt, she had hot dogs on her mind.
The picnic was to be held at the Roosevelt’s vacation home in Hyde Park, New York, at a stone house on the grounds. The view there was perfect: you could enjoy the scenery for miles. Eleanor was sure that it would be a great place to get to know the king and queen, and to talk about the war that seemed to be coming fast.
Everything was scheduled for June 11, 1939 at 1 o’clock. The Roosevelts and 200 of their friends welcomed the royal visitors and, after entertainment and dancing from Native Americans, the feast began. First on the menu were Eleanor’s
“famous hot dogs.”
The king ate his quickly and asked for another. Yum!
The queen didn’t quite know what to do with a dog on a bun, so she ate hers carefully with a fork. It was a meal she’d never forget; in fact, she said that in a note she sent to Hyde Park 50 years later, on the anniversary of that first “hot diggity dogs” picnic!
Sometimes, a little finger food goes a long way, and so does a little book you can wrap your fingers around. But what can you say about something that appeals to nearly anyone who can sit in a booster seat?
“Cute.” That’s what you can say about “Hot Dog!” because Kimmelman takes a little-known historical event and makes it humorously warm and very kid-friendly but with gentle humor that adults will “get.” Add in funny, exaggerated, caricature-like illustrations from Juhasz, read this tale aloud, and you’ll have rambunctious kids eating out of your hand.
Though the littlest readers might sit still for this story, I think 4-to-7-year-olds will like it best. If you know a kid who loves biting into a good story, “Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic” is one she’ll gobble up.
View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for children weekly.