Cover of book showing a young girl with gardening equipment in front of the White House, with FDR's dog Fala.This charming book tells the true story of how a little girl helped with Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s White House Victory garden during World War II.

Diana Hopkins lived in the White House with her father, the president’s chief advisor. Eager to do her part to help the nation fight its war, Diana ended  up as the nation’s First Kid Gardener, dealing with the frustrations and disappointments any gardener knows but eventually growing a crop of vegetables for the White House staff to cook with.

The book has a very traditional picture book structure. As I watched Diana try, unsuccessfully, different ways to help the war effort before hitting on the victory garden idea, I kept being sure I was reading authorial invention. The cover says “based on a true story,” so I figured that part of the book must have been made up. But the back matter verifies that each of those experiences I had doubted actually happened. The back matter also has a wonderful photo of Diana holding Eleanor Roosevelt’s hand on the White House lawn.

The back matter explains the importance of the victory garden movement in the war effort, so it might be worth sharing at least parts of it with young readers. But the book itself would pair delightfully with an urban gardening book, like Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table, or with another book about kids helping the war effort during World War II, like the historical fiction Knit Your Bit.

Front endpaper showing newly-planted garden in front of White House.



Back endpaper showing lush garden in front of White House.Don’t miss the delightful endpapers. The front endpapers show a newly-planted garden in front of the White House, but at the end we see the garden verdant and bursting.



More information about victory gardens is available through the National World War II Museum.

Diana’s White House Garden by Elisa Carbone, illustrated by Jen Hill. Viking: 2016.

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I participate in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge each week at Kid Lit Frenzy.