Thank you, Sourcebooks, for inviting me to part of the blog tour celebrating the release of When Audrey Met Alice!
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
By Rebecca Behrens
Ages 9 -12
First daughters just want to have fun.
Thirteen-year-old First Daughter Audrey Rhodes is convinced that living in the White House is like being permanently grounded. While her parents are off saving the world, Audrey Rhodes spends most of her time pining for friends back home, sulking about security restrictions, and suppressing the crush she’s developing on Quint, her only DC friend. After the Secret Service cancels the party she planned, Audrey is ready to give up and become a White House hermit. What good is having your own bowling alley if you don’t have anyone to play with?
Audrey is ready to give up and spend the next four years totally friendless—until she discovers Alice Roosevelt’s hidden diary beneath the floorboards and starts asking herself…What Would Alice Do? But not everyone is on board with Audrey’s attempts to be more like Alice—especially not her mother’s super-stern Chief of Staff. Will meeting Alice bring Audrey happiness—like the freedom to attend the school trip and possibly a First Boyfriend—or a host of new problems?
The former First Daughter’s outrageous antics give Audrey a ton of ideas for having fun…and get her into more trouble than she can handle. A fun, smart middle grade debut that brings a fascinating historical character to vibrant life and showcases relatable tween issues like fitting in, first crushes, and finding your own way, the White House hijinks of these First Daughters is a story readers won’t want to miss!
I’m thrilled to be participating in the blog tour for this terrific new book aimed at middle grade readers! Author Rebecca Behrens was kind enough to share her thoughts on a question I posed:
What would Alice find most confusing about the lives of girls in the 21st century?
Here’s Rebecca’s response:
It’s only been a little over a century since Alice Roosevelt moved into the White House and became perhaps the most famous girl of the turn of the century. But how times have changed! What would Alice find most confusing about the lives of girls in the 21st century?
Alice lived at a time when girls weren’t allowed to go out with dates, and they had to have chaperones even at dances. According to Alice, “There were always watchful eyes to check on one. Woe betide the girl who emerged from the conservatory at a dance with her hair slightly disheveled. As one’s hair tended to fall down at the best of times it was frightfully difficult trying to keep up appearances.” Alice would be surprised by the dating girls do today—but I think she’d consider it a great thing. From an early age, Alice was fixated on finding a husband, because that was her ticket out of her parents’ home and into the world. If she watched a show like Girls, I think she’d be amazed (and occasionally shocked) at the romantic lives of young women. But she would love how young women can live independently, and how much agency they have in their romantic lives.
Athletics for young women weren’t common in Alice’s youth. She had fun roughhousing with her siblings, swimming, and she reportedly did some yoga—but girls didn’t play on soccer teams or run track. I think Alice would be shocked by all of the athletic opportunities for girls today. Considering what a vivacious person she was—and competitive—Alice would want to start competing, too.
Considering how strict and modest social standards for clothing were at the turn of the century, Alice would probably find some recent fashion trends bizarre. “Buttoned-up” was the style, literally—Alice wasn’t allowed to visit a friend’s home anymore after that girl emerged from a car with a couple buttons undone! Jeggings and flip flops would seem very revealing and casual to Alice. Clothes in Alice’s time were meant to be lasting and beautiful. Alice wouldn’t know what to think about ironic fashion choices, like trucker hats or grandpa sweaters—anything that wasn’t meant to last and impress would seem like a waste of money. But I think Alice would always understand when someone uses clothing to make a statement, like Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga. After all, Alice herself was an early fashion icon—the most popular dress color when she lived in the White House was “Alice Blue,” after the shade of her eyes—and she loved the attention that brought.
Alice once said of her beloved Auntie Bye that if Bye had been a man, she would have been president, not her brother Theodore. At the turn of the century, there were very limited opportunities for women in politics and government—women couldn’t even vote yet! I think Alice would be surprised and thrilled about the number of female lawmakers today.
Finally, when Alice was a teenager, part of her fame came from her sharp wit and her willingness to be outspoken. Most of her peers were seen and not heard. I think Alice would find the many ways that girls can make their voices heard today—online and off—a little confusing, and a lot refreshing.
When Audrey Met Alice is such a delight! The author does a wonderful job of weaving together a modern girl’s life and the diary of Alice Roosevelt, making both pieces of the story equally engaging and charming. Audrey is a bright, friendly 8th-grader who loves her parents, but she’s isolated from peers and even from her mom and dad once they move into “1600”. Hurray for progress — it’s Audrey’s mom who is President, and her dad — in addition to “First Gent” responsibilities — is a scientist whose research is intense and time-consuming. It’s hard to find time to just chill as a family when you’re busy running the country and trying to cure cancer — but that means that Audrey is left to wander the halls and miss her old life. Sure, the kids at her new school seem friendly at first — but do they like her for herself, or do they just want the glamor of hanging out with the First Daughter?
When Audrey stumbles across a hidden diary belonging to Teddy Roosevelt’s outspoken daughter Alice, Audrey finds inspiration both for improving her own life — and for getting into even further mischief. Alice wants to help her father and be a part of his world, but she also craves adventure and excitement, and she’s not one to listen just because she’s told to behave a certain way. As Audrey reads in Alice’s diary:
… my father simply said, “I can either run the country or I can control Alice, but I can’t possibly do both.”
Audrey’s scrapes may seem tame in comparison to some of Alice’s more out-there escapades (such as wearing a green garter snake around her neck at state dinners or being photographed betting on horses at a time when girls did not do such things), but then again, Alice didn’t have non-stop Secret Service protection, sneaky paparazzi, and ubiquitous social media scrutiny to contend with.
Alice preaches the mantra of “To Thine Own Self Be True”, and proclaims that she is someone who wants to “eat up the world”. As the book progresses, Audrey starts to think in terms of WWAD? — What Would Alice Do? — and becomes determined to find a way to be a good daughter and at the same time make a difference and be true to herself.
My review in short? I loved this book! Audrey is an easy-to-relate-to main character. She has the same hopes, fears, and worries as a typical girl her age — but as the President’s daughter, she has to deal with middle-school drama with Secret Service agents at her side and state protocol officials looking over her shoulder. Audrey narrates with humor and self-awareness; she’s not faultless, and she knows when she messes up — but she means well, and it’s fun to see her apply her WWAD philosophy in ways that are surprising, funny, and with decidedly unpredictable outcomes.
I highly recommend When Audrey Met Alice. I think this would be a terrific read for middle school and young high school students. It’s well-written and a lot of fun — and might even inspire a girl or two to think more about the power of girls to change the world!
For more information, visit the Sourcebooks page for When Audrey Met Alice, where you’ll find additional resources about the real Alice Roosevelt, including downloadable material for kids and for educators,
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