The House That George Built

The House That George Built

  • 1695

By: Suzanne Slade / Illustrated by: Rebecca Bond

The story behind the President's House.

As the first president of a new country, George Washington was busy. But despite all the laws he needed to pass, and the important people that he needed to meet, George had a special idea: he wanted to build a house where all the future presidents could live.

The House That George Built takes readers through the process of how the president’s house came to be—starting with the contest George held to choose the perfect design for this legendary landmark, all the way to President John Adams’s move into the grandiose home. Cleverly written in the familiar format of “The House That Jack Built,” author Suzanne Slade supplements her rhyming verse with lively conversational prose, describing how George was involved in this project from beginning to end, from selecting the location to figuring out how to get the thousands of heavy bricks to the construction site. Rebecca Bond’s watercolor illustrations help readers follow the steps to what became the White House as we know it today.

Back matter includes a description of the changes that have been made to the House That George Built over the years, as well as an author’s note with more information about America’s first president.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Suzanne Slade, author

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than ninety books for children, including Climbing Lincoln’s Steps, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, and Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Freedom and Equality, an Amelia Bloomer recommended title. Suzanne lives near Chicago, Illinois.

Read more about Suzanne.

Rebecca Bond, illustrator

Rebecca Bond is the author and illustrator of several picture books, including In the Belly of an Ox, an ALA Notable Children’s Book. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Read more about Rebecca.

Awards & Honors:

  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Bank Street's Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Editorial Reviews:

    Kirkus Reviews

    A simple, well-constructed overview takes a close look at how the magnificent house at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. was built on an empty piece of land with a view of the Potomac.

    It was George Washington who conceived of a superb residence for the American President and directed its development over the 11 years it took to build, including surveying, vetting the design and administering the construction from his presidential office to bring the project in on schedule. Slade's clear description of the steps in the building process accompanies Bond's amiable edge-to-edge detailed watercolor depictions of the construction site and its busy progress. A cumulative rhyme--"the house that George built"--accompanies the compact, informative text and serves as a place holder and mnemonic to convey the stages of this impressive undertaking. A charming illustration of John and Abigail Adams, standing at last in a great hall not entirely swept of workmen's tools and stray nails, shows the first of the residents who would leave their mark on this principle residence of democracy. The author's note and list of some of the improvements made by those in residence over the years (tennis courts for Theodore Roosevelt; a vegetable garden for the Obamas) add to a fascinating first history of the White House.

    Sure to see--and worthy of--plenty of use, and not just in election years. (author's list of sources and suggested resources to learn more).

    Publishers Weekly

    Slade (Climbing Lincoln's Steps) delivers a historical riff on "The House That Jack Built" with this tale of how George Washington oversaw the construction of what would come to be called the White House: "This is the lot,/ that grand, scenic spot,/ for the President's House that George built." On most of the right-hand pages, the cumulative verse grows longer, while prose sections at left offer facts about materials, workers, and the house's overall progress as it moves from blueprint to bricks-and-mortar reality; for instance, when the stone supply fell short, "George changed the house plan from three stories to two." In airy watercolor-and-ink illustrations, Bond (In the Belly of an Ox) depicts the stages of construction and captures details of the era's building methods and styles of dress; John and Abigail Adams, the building's first residents, are shown looking around nervously upon moving in ("the plaster walls were still wet, and the winding staircase had only a few steps"). A foreword, author's note, and additional White House facts supply even more details and context to this focused and well-executed project.

    School Library Journal

    Following the framework of "This Is the House That Jack Built," this cumulative story describes how George Washington chose the design for what would become the White House and supervised its construction. Rhyming verses, interspersed with background paragraphs to fill out the narrative, describe how Washington found the site and held a contest to get design submissions. African American and white surveyors and laborers are included in the pictures. The illustrations, rendered in watercolor and ink, are large scale, like the house. The artwork spills off the spreads, the images too big to be contained. The perspective shifts to provide varying views of the work in progress. Earth tones complement the building theme, suggesting dirt, wood, and grass. A section at the back of the book describes the many changes made to the White House over the years, and an author's note provides more historical detail. Although there are many books for young readers about George Washington, this appealing title is unique in its focus.


    ISBN: 978-1-58089-262-9
    ISBN: 978-1-58089-263-6

    ISBN: 978-1-60734-938-9 EPUB
    ISBN: 978-1-60734-450-6 PDF

    Ages: 6-9
    Page count: 32
    7 x 9


    If you like this book, you’ll enjoy these:
    Hail to the Chief
    The Flag We Love
    The White House is Burning