Wednesday, July 15, 2009

First Daughter: White House Rules-Before Sasha and Malia

First Daughter: White House Rules
Mitali Perkins
Penguin Group

Meet sixteen-year-old Sameera Righton, aka Sparrow, the likeable and very interesting main character of the First Daughter books. Sameera was born in Pakistan and was adopted by an American political family. She grew up as a diplomat's daughter, in communities where people from different cultures and races mingled without much fuss. She is sophisticated and articulate, fierce and opinionated. Sameera is an aspiring journalist and is well on her way to fulfilling her dream of becoming a writer. She has a very popular blog,, that is read by powerful people in America and by people all over the world. And her dad, James Righton, is now the president of the United States. I highly recommend you check out that link. Sparrowblog really exists as a character blog for the First Daughter books. How cool is that?!

Sameera, her dad, her mom Elizabeth Campbell Righton, and her cousin and best friend Miranda Campbell move into the White House. Sameera, her almost-too-good-to-be-true parents, and Miranda have to get used to being the First Family. There are, of course, heavy responsibilities. There are many rules to follow. And there are lots of press people who make privacy almost impossible.

This book is actually a very light read overall. But it is not just about Sameera and Miranda exploring the White House, redecorating Camp David and the living quarters on Air Force One, and attending fancy parties. First Daughter: White House Rules also touches on important topics like race, culture, and religion. Obviously, Sameera is fusing two distinct cultural identities. And not everyone is happy that there is a non-white member of the First Family. Then there is Sameera's romantic interest, Indian American Bobby Ghosh. Sameera does not practice Islam, but she is Muslim by birth. Bobby's family is Hindu and Bobby's grandfather has a grudge against Muslims because his brother was killed by Muslims during the war and his family lost their jute farm in India when their village was taken over by Muslims. Bobby's super strict parents forbid him from seeing Sameera. Bobby's very ill grandfather would get upset if his grandson dated someone Muslim by blood. Race, culture, and religion, and other relevant topics like economic status, are touched on in several other ways in the novel - but never in a preachy way.

First Daughter: White House Rules is a fresh read. It is also a really fun look into a tight-knit and great family and into the perks and challenges of being the First Daughter. In fact, the book was so much fun that I was sad when I reached its end.

*Mitali's second book in the series, First Daughter: An American Extreme Makeover is available in our Summer Madness Giveaway.
Tarie is a reader, grad student (major Anglo-American literature), editor of EFL instructional materials, and former (and future) English teacher in the Philippines. She blogs about literature for the young and young at heart at Into the Wardrobe.

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