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Book Review: The True Story of Fala


Photo Courtesy of: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

Becoming an educator is about finding balance within your classroom. In order to successfully reach out to your students, you must be able to find the balance between education and excitement. Once we lose our students due to lack of interest, it becomes very difficult to pull them back in.

            As I spent the past few weeks at the Teaching the Hudson Valley 2015 Institute at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, I began to question how to always keep my students interested in subjects that may come across as “boring” to them, such as history. I firmly believe boredom strikes as soon as children feel that they cannot relate to some of the events that occurred throughout history. But one thing that young students can relate to are peaked areas of interest, such as animals or various hobbies. As I strolled through the Presidential Library, I came across an exhibit of F.D.R.’s beloved companion, Fala. As I read the various descriptions of objects in the exhibit, it occurred to me that Fala is a great way to get children engaged in learning about Franklin D. Roosevelt and his legacy.

I came across The True Story of Fala in the New Deal Bookstore during the 2015 Teaching the Hudson Valley Summer Institute. As I scanned through the book, I noticed it was very detailed, with many high-quality, authentic photographs taken of Fala alongside many beautiful drawings. Also, I noted that the short length of a novel is great to keep the attention of a younger audience.

The book follows a timeline of Fala’s life, from when he was brought to F.D.R. by Margaret Suckley, better known as ‘Daisy,’ all the way to the First Washington Conference in 1941. It tells the true story of how Fala was not just given the role of ‘The Informer’ by the Secret Service, but how he had to earn it by being broken into his role of ‘Presidential Dog.’ It also documents the many journeys of F.D.R. during his Presidency with Fala by his side the whole way during some of the most important meetings of F.D.R.’s time in office.

To many, Fala was simply the faithful companion of F.D.R. However, Fala, too, had many admirers, some of whom even wrote him fan letters after he became a part of “Barkers for Britain,” which was created to collect supplies for the U.K. After, the fan letters started coming to him rapidly, some of which are featured in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Museum and Library in Hyde Park. As a treat to his fans, Fala would personally stamp the reply letter with his paw.

Over the years as F.D.R.’s fame skyrocketed, many famous figures would visit with the President at the White House or his home in Hyde Park. Of course, Fala was always right by his side entertaining everyone with his various tricks and his friendly personality. Within The True Story of Fala, we are able to see photographs of Fala’s time spent with some of the President’s infamous visitors of the White House and Springwood.

Courtesy of Black Dome Press and Wilderstein, The True Story of Fala provides all audiences with a different view of history. It provides detailed dialogue and a short length, factual novel to enthuse young readers of the subject, and high-quality photographs of what we now know to be the journey through the great legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Lastly, courtesy of Margaret Suckley, we are lucky to know the true story of Fala.

-Kimberly Gomez

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