Biography:  Barbara Kerley


What To Do About Alice?   



Kerley, Barbara. 2008. What To Do About Alice? Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham.New York:         Scholastic Press.  

ISBN:  978-0439922319


Plot Summary               

“Theodore Roosevelt had a small problem. Her name was Alice. Alice Lee Roosevelt was hungry to go places, meet people, and do things! Father called it “running riot.” Alice called it “eating up the world.” What To Do About Alice? written by Barbara Kerley is the fantastic biography of Alice Lee Roosevelt, the oldest child of President Teddy Roosevelt.  Alice was an adventurous girl who ignored public opinion concerning what a young girl should or should not do. She was known as a rule-breaker in an era when women were under great pressure to conform. The American public noticed many of her exploits; she rode in cars, stayed out late partying, and kept a pet snake named Emily Spinach. In 1904 – 5, Alice at age 20, along with her father’s Secretary of War, William Howard Taft,  led the so-called “Imperial Cruise” to Japan,  China, the Philippines and Korea. It was the largest diplomatic mission in U.S. history. Alice Roosevelt was vibrant and colorful and charmed everyone she met. When Alice returned to America she married and became a mother, but never left the political arena or the public eye.


The exhausted president commented to his friend, author Owen Wister, “I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.” Theodore Roosevelt


Critical Analysis

Barbara Kerley’s biography of Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth, What To Do About Alice? is a great book for young girls (and boys). This biography is often a little exaggerated but does not fall into historical fiction. This is a nonfiction book with a larger-than-life person as its subject. The author used actual events and history to write this biography and Alice Roosevelt’s character and personality are captured on paper for all to read. Edwin Fotheringham’s illustrations are so large and playful that they go perfectly with the text provided by Ms. Kerley. The illustrator used bright colors to make the book entertaining and interesting. The dust jacket shows Alice crazily riding her bike across the White House lawn and it invites the reader to open the book and read about Alice and her antics.



Sibert Honor Book
Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book

Irma Black Award Honor Book
Parents Choice Award

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
An ALA Notable Book

Review Excerpts


School Library Journal: “”Kerley s text gallops along with a vitality to match her subject s antics, as the girl greets White House visitors accompanied by her pet snake, refuses to let leg braces cramp her style, dives fully clothed into a ship’s swimming pool, and also earns her place in history as one of her father’s trusted advisers. Fotheringham s digitally rendered, retro-style illustrations are a superb match for the text.”


Kirkus: “Theodore Roosevelt s irrepressible oldest child receives an appropriately vivacious appreciation in this superb picture book…. Kerley s precise text presents readers with a devilishly smart, strong-willed girl who was determined to live life on her own terms and largely succeeded.”


Booklist: “Irrepressible Alice Roosevelt gets a treatment every bit as attractive and exuberant as she was….The large format gives Fotheringham, in his debut, plenty of room for spectacular art.”



Introduce a discussion about living in the public eye.

Ask who has visited Washington D.C. and the White House?

Discuss how the roles for women have changed in the last 100 years.

Introduce a discussion about how boys and girls are expected to behave.


Related Books


Kimmelman, Leslie. 2009. Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt! Illustrated by Adam Gustavsaon.          Atlanta GA: Peachtree Publishers.

ISBN: 9781561454921


Fleming, Candace. 2011. Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart. New York:          Schwartz and Wade.  

ISBN: 9780375841989


Berne, Jennifer. 2011. Manfish: A Story of Jacque Cousteau. Illustrated by Eric Puybaret.  New          York: Chronicle Books.

ISBN: 9780811860635