1. Alice described her zest for life as "eating up the world." Ask students what they think this phrase means. Reread the book as a class, noting the kinds of things Alice did to experience everything life had to offer.
As a follow-up, have students consider what kinds of things they would like to do to "eat up the world." Invite them to share their ideas orally, in a written paragraph, or through making a poster.
2. What is it like to live in the White House? Try a lesson created by The White House Historical Association:
3. Alice had several younger siblings: Theodore Jr., Kermit, Ethel, Archibald, and Quentin. Ask students to choose one of Alice's siblings and write or present a brief report about them.
More information about the Roosevelt family can be found at the following sites:
The National Park Service site
The Theodore Roosevelt Association site
4. Washington, D.C. is famous for its many monuments honoring American heroes, such as the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. In What To Do About Alice?, artist Edwin Fotheringham depicts another monument -- Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Explore the National Parks Service website about the memorial. Then compare a photo of the actual monument with Fotheringham's depiction of it in the book. Ask students to identify what is different and what they think Fotheringham is saying with his picture.
5. One of the songs dedicated to Alice was the waltz "Alice Blue Gown" (J. McCarthy/ H. Tierney). Share the lyrics with the class:
In my sweet little Alice Blue Gown
When I first wandered down into town
I was both proud and shy
As I felt ev'ry eye
But in ev'ry shop window I'd primp, passing by.
Then in manner of fashion I'd frown
And the world seem'd to smile all around
Till it wilted I wore it
I'll always adore it
My sweet little Alice Blue Gown
Click on the link to share a sample of the color Alice Blue.
Ask students what color they wish could be named after them. Using tempera/finger paints in the three primary colors (blue, yellow, and red), plus white and black (to make tints lighter or darker), invite students to mix 'their' color and then paint a picture of themselves wearing a gown or suit of their own, personal color.
6. Explore the illustrations in the book to learn what type of clothing girls wore in the early 1900s, and what this says about how society viewed women at that time. Discuss how clothing styles are different today. As a follow-up, ask students to write a paragraph about why they think nine-year-old Alice wanted to wear pants.
To see actual photos of models wearing layer upon layer of women's/girl's clothing from 1900, visit the site created by the Memorial Hall Museum of Old Deerfield, MA.
To learn more about home life in 1900, visit this PBS site.
7. Alice's four-month tour of Asia was a real adventure; she later wrote about the trip in her autobiography, Crowded Hours. Chart her journey on a map as you share the following details of the trip:
A. Alice traveled by train from Washington, D.C. to Chicago, and then on to San Francisco. During the train trip, she was "fairly jumping with excitement" because she had never been west of the Mississippi River. She later recalled, "I had this little Atlas that I used to read as though it were a romance. I would look at it and think I -- I -- am actually here at this place on the map." To keep things interesting, she woke early on July 4th and set off firecrackers on the back platform of the train. Once she reached the West Coast, she picnicked in the "sun-flecked gloom of the great redwood trees" and visited San Francisco's Chinatown at night.
B. Alice and the rest of her group -- mainly congressmen and their spouses -- sailed by steamer from San Francisco. On board, she wore white linen skirts and three-quarter coats during the day and fancier dinner dresses each evening. For five days, the boat steamed toward Hawaii. Alice was enchanted by the "lovely, blazing weather" and the first sight of flying fish. The group was welcomed to Honolulu by ukulele players and officials bearing "leis of heavy, perfumed flowers." Alice loved the "mountains and valleys in cloudy green" and the white sand beaches. The group watched hula dancers, ate tropical fruits, went swimming in the ocean, and rode the waves on outrigger canoes.
C. The steamer left Hawaii for a ten-day sail to Yokohama, Japan, where the group drove "through crowded streets hung with flags and jammed with cheering citizens" to the train station for the trip to Tokyo. There, they lunched with the Emperor and toured the Imperial Gardens. The next day, the Empress sent Alice an embroidered screen, a piece of gold cloth, and a lacquer box. In Tokyo, Alice shopped, drank tea, went to many parties, and watched sumo wrestling.
D. From Japan, the group sailed to Manila in the Philippines. After landing, Alice was taken by horse-drawn carriage to a place with cool, dimly-lit rooms and "lizards of all sizes and shapes" scuttling along the walls. She attended numerous parties and receptions. She also stood on the reviewing stand as thousands of troops marched by. "Though it was the hottest period of the tropic summer," Alice recalled, "we were up and out and doing even in the noon heat." If the many official speeches got too boring during an outdoor banquet, Alice would arrange a trail of crumbs "to point the way to the feast" for any ants wandering by.
E. The group traveled on to Hong Kong and then to Peking (now called Beijing). There, she was a guest at the Empress's summer palace. Alice recalled meeting the Empress, who sat on a throne and wore strings of pearls and jade around her neck. "I curtsied, advanced a few steps, curtsied again, advanced a few more steps, and then curtsied for the third time in front of the throne." After lunch, the Empress gave Alice a gold bracelet and ring. The next morning, two court officials presented Alice with another present from the Empress -- a little black Pekingese dog, which Alice named "Manchu."
F. The group's final stop was Korea, where they took a train from Chemulpo (now called Inchon) to Seoul. There, they rode ponies almost every afternoon until dusk. Alice recalled, "I don't think the native ponies liked foreigners; they frequently tried to bite us as we mounted." One pony in particular did not like Alice. "I would stand about ten feet off and make a face at it. The pony would respond by laying back its ears, baring its yellow teeth, and struggling...to get at me." Still, Alice found Korea fascinating -- the perfect ending to an exciting trip. Two weeks later, by boat and by train, she was back in New York City.
Chart Alice's journey on the map. Then, invite students to select their favorite portion of the trip and write a short story, from Alice's perspective, about her adventure, drawing on details of the actual trip to give their fiction authenticity.