A Big Cheese for the White House: The True Tale of a Tremendous Cheddar
Author: Candace Fleming; Illustrator: S.D. Schindler
Pages: 32       Age Levels: 4-8
Publisher/Date: Farrar, Straus and Giroux/2004
ISBN: 0374406278

Book Review

Historical fact: On January 1, 1801, Elder John Leland, a Baptist minister, delivered a 1,235-pound wheel of Cheshire cheese to Thomas Jefferson as a gift of gratitude for Jefferson’s support of religious freedom.

Candace Fleming has taken this little-known detail and turned it into a deliciously delightful little "Tale of a Tremendous Cheddar."

In Fleming's story, the villagers of Cheshire (makers of mouthwatering cheese) heard news "that threatened to sour their curds forever." President Thomas Jefferson was serving cheese made in Norton, Connecticut! Not to be outdone, Elder John Leland convinced the residents of Cheshire to put their curds together, along with one day's milking from each of their cows, and create a "whopping big cheddar."

Easier said than done, the villagers soon realized. They had to resort to using a huge apple press to squeeze the whey from the curds. Then, the local blacksmith had to make a huge, custom-forged hoop to hold the cheese. Their efforts paid off, however. Once finished, they had on their hands a four-foot tall round of cheddar.

After letting the cheese ripen, Elder John and the ever-doubting Phineas Dobbs set off to deliver the mammoth cheese to Jefferson. Sledding and sailing their way to Washington, the duo finally arrive at the nation's capital amid trumpets, banners, and gaggles of gawkers.

Jefferson, after cutting into the cheddar and tasting it, declared it to be "The best you can serve at your table."

Fleming serves up a terrific treat. The tale is charmingly told and fun to read. Schindler's pen-and-ink and watercolor drawings are filled with period details and humorous touches.

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis
©2004 Education Oasis®

About the Author

Candace Fleming, author of Boxes for Katje and The Hatmaker's Sign, lives in Mount Prospect, Illinois.

About the Illustrator

S. D. Schindler has illustrated many picture books. He lives in Philadelphia.