ETHEL IS 10 YEARS OLD in 1901 when her family's life changed forever. Suddenly, Father is not only a famous cowboy, war hero, and politician, but also President Theodore Roosevelt, leader of the United States--and Ethel has a new place to call home. The White House is older and stuffier than Ethel imagined, but there's never a dull moment with her adventurous family around. Ethel would love to spend every day following Father on horseback rides and scrambles through neighboring Rock Creek Park.
Instead, Ethel has to stay at boarding school during the week, where nothing she does feels right and none of the girls seem to like her. Ethel's parents keep telling her to keep her chin up and be patient, but it's not easy being the president's daughter. Ethel wishes she could be as courageous as father and make her family proud. When her fashionable older sister arrives home, Ethel feels new hope. Sister knows the secret of being brave and making friends, and she's willing to share it. All Ethel needs to do is take one outrageous dare.
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July 10, 2006
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Excerpt from The President's Daughter by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
1 Father's foot swung back and forth, tick, tock, tick, tock, in time with the clock on the wall. It was nearly ten o'clock at night. Tuesday, September 13, 1901. We were assembled in the parlor of the main lodge of the Tahawus Club, a resort in the Adirondack Mountains in upper New York state. Usually I would have been asleep already, but not that night. We were waiting for a telegram. Father stared hard at the page of the book he was reading, almost hard enough to make the words pop off the page. I half expected them to--Father could do anything--but I knew better. He turned the page. He turned another. Page after page, so fast I knew he wasn't really reading, though Father read faster than anyone I knew, faster even than Mother, who read all the time. Father did everything fast. He hated waiting. We all did. Mother looked up from her own book. She said, "Wouldn't you feel better if--" "Not hardly!" Father snapped. "I'm not going until I'm sent for. Been there once already. I'd be like an old vulture, hovering over him. Dreadful." Normally Father wouldn't cut Mother off like that, and she wouldn't stand for it if he did. But that night Father smacked another page of his book and Mother just shook her head. "His poor wife," she murmured. "What on earth will she do?" I didn't ask whom she meant. I knew. I might have been only ten years old, but I paid attention to everything. Mrs. McKinley, the president's wife, was an invalid. At state dinners the president had to sit beside her, instead of across the table the way he was supposed to, so that if she had an epileptic fit he could cover her face with his napkin. At the inaugural ball, my big sister, Alice, sat on the arm of Mrs. McKinley's chair without ever noticing that Mrs. McKinley was sitting in it. Afterward Sister told Mother that she hadn't meant to be rude. I didn't get to go to the ball, but I did meet Mrs. McKinley at the inauguration, before the swearing in. She was so lifeless and still, she reminded me of one of Quentin's wax dolls. President McKinley was kind but not joyful. Sister said he had the personality of a mackerel. "Next to him," she said, "Father's brighter than the sun." Next to most people Father was brighter than the sun. So was Sister, for that matter. I had wondered if Mrs. McKinley would talk more when she wasn't surrounded by crowds. I had wondered if she would invite Mother to tea in the fall; maybe I could go too. Now I guessed not. A week before, President McKinley had been shot in the stomach while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. At first everyone had thought he was going to recover, but now it looked as if they were wrong. Quentin, my littlest brother, who ought to have been in bed two hours before, climbed onto Father's knee. "Are you an old vulture?" he shouted. "Or are you a bear?" Quentin was only three. He didn't understand. Father played bear with Quentin and Archie, and sometimes with Kermit and me, almost every night. Not that night, though. Archie, who was seven, looked up from the parlor rug with grave anxiety. Archie did understand. "I'll take him, sir." Mame, our ancient Irish nurse, rose from the sofa and held out her arms. Quentin ducked and tried to bury himself beneath Father's elbow. Father wrapped his arms around Quentin. "He can stay," Mother said softly. "Just for tonight, Mame. If you're tired, go ahead to bed. I'll take care of the children." Mame hesitated, but her back had been hurting all day. She went out of the parlor. I could hear her steps down the hall, and the front door opening and shutting. The cabin we were staying in was just across from the main lodge. Quentin fell asleep. Father adjusted his spectacles, moved Quentin more securely into the cr