Bo Obama: The White House Tails
written by Paul Salamof
illustrated by Keith Tucker
I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be assigned the task of Bo Obama’s biographer. He’s a dog, after all, and even though he is the presidential pet, and thus the First Dog of the Land, he hasn’t really done anything.
The creators of this slim volume rose to the challenge by having Bo present a series of facts about his family, his breed, presidential pets, and the history of the White House. Unlike a lot of educational comics, this one does go beyond the obvious to present some gee-whiz facts. I didn't know, for instance, that William Howard Taft kept a cow named Pauline, or that Thomas Jefferson anonymously submitted an entry into the competition to design the White House—and lost.
The book starts with some interesting information about Bo himself; we learn that he’s a Portuguese Water Dog, which means that he is hypoallergenic and has webbed feet. This is followed by the cavalcade of presidential pets, from James Buchanan’s elephants to the mother-pup pets of George H.W. and George W. Bush. (Yes, even the Bush pets kept it in the family.) The second half of the book focuses on the history and architecture of the White House. This story is told compactly and with a focus on action and interesting facts, rather than a strict chronological narrative. The organization may seem random to adults, but for kids who like to pick up trivia, it’s a gold mine.
The art is simple, sometimes to a fault: Often an entire page is taken up with a single image, and it’s usually something straightforward, not a complicated page that would take a while to decode. Other pages are more complex, but there are no more than five to seven panels on a page, and usually no more than one word balloon per panel. Thus, while the story jumps around from fact to fact, it should be easy for readers to figure out what is going on. Unfortunately, the more complicated panels are often clumsily constructed, with odd perspectives and distorted figures. Even in the larger panels, the art is sometimes rather stiff. The bright colors and simple line art are appealing enough, though younger readers probably won’t notice any flaws in draftsmanship.
This is not a sophisticated comic, but with its bright art, frisky main character, and interesting facts, it has plenty of kid appeal.