Nonfiction Books – What To Do About Alice?

What To Do About Alice? 


Kerley, Barbara. 2008. WHAT TO DO ABOUT ALICE? HOW ALICE ROOSEVELT BROKE THE RULES, CHARMED THE WORLD, AND DROVE HER FATHER TEDDY CRAZY! Illus. by Edwin Fotheringham. New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN 9780439922319.

Plot Summary

Theodore Roosevelt has a small problem – his energetic, adventurous, determined daughter, Alice Lee Roosevelt. Alice’s mother died just two days after she is born, which makes everyone sad, except Alice. She wants to “eat up the world” and this delightful biography shows Alice doing just that throughout her life. Alice entertains visitors to the White House with her pet snake, travels the world, and sees every opportunity as an adventure.

Critical Analysis

Through the story and illustrations Kerley and Fotheringham depict Alice Lee Roosevelt’s energetic and bold approach to life. Whether demanding piggyback rides down the stairs from her father, or teaching herself “astronomy, geology, even Greek grammar” in her father’s library, Alice is a girl who knows what she wants. Readers may not be surprised at Alice’s adventurous ways when they read about her father “herding thousands of cattle across the Dakota badlands” and “leading the Rough Riders as they charged up Kettle Hill.”

Alice didn’t want to be known as “the poor little thing” when her mother died, or when she had to wear braces on her legs for a time. Kerley’s spirited words match Fotheringham’s delightful illustrations throughout Alice’s adventures from bouncing on the couch as a young girl to joining a delegation touring Asia as a young woman.

Fotheringham makes his book debut with this colorful portrayal of Alice Lee Roosevelt’s life. Using digital media and soothing colors, the action moves up, down, and around the large format pages with staircases, railroad tracks, bicycles, and cruise ships. Fotheringham’s bold illustrations successfully convey an energetic young Alice as she bounces on a couch, leads her siblings bounding down the stairs, and rides through town in her runabout. Fotheringham uses Alice blue throughout his illustrations, a color created to “match the color of her blue-gray eyes.” While the action is non-stop the illustrations also show the clothing, architectural, and even newspaper style of the time.

Award winning author, Barbara Kerley includes author’s notes and a list of sources in the back of the book, and shares an excerpt of a letter from the president to his daughter praising her help during a goodwill tour of Puerto Rico. Young readers will be fascinated reading about this exuberant daughter of a famous father.

Review Excerpts

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY starred review: “It’s hard to imagine a picture book biography that could better suit its subject than this high-energy volume serves young Alice Roosevelt. Kerley knows just how to introduce her to contemporary readers.”

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL starred review: “This book provides a fascinating glimpse into both a bygone era and one of its more interesting denizens as well as a surefire antidote for any child who thinks that historical figures are boring.”


ALA Notable Book

Sibert Honor Book

Best Books of the Year – Publishers Weekly

Best Books of the Year – School Library Journal

Best Books of the Year – Kirkus Reviews


  • Art Activity – Alice Roosevelt even had a color named after her, Alice Blue, that matched the color of her eyes. Using colored pencils or paints, create a color that personifies YOU and include the color in a self-portrait.
  • Language Arts – Visit the author’s Web Site, Use her resources “Writing an Extraordinary Biography (According to Barbara Kerley) to help students write a biography about someone interesting in their family.
  • History – Have students work in groups to research more about President Theodore Roosevelt. Use the facts to create a newspaper article in the style included in the book.
  • Read other extraordinary biographies by Barbara Kerley: Walt Whitman: Words for America, and The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy).
  • Explore other books that depict growing up in the White House including First Kids: The True Story of All the President’s Children
  • By Noah McCullough, and First Children: Growing Up in the White House by Katherine Leiner.

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About libraryloverleslie

I love libraries and books, most especially those for children and young adults. I’m a Children’s Librarian in the Pacific the dream!
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