Champ and Major: First Dogs

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Champ and Major: First Dogs Book Poster Image
Cute look at President Biden's pooches at home and at play.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows Biden getting a dog from an animal shelter. Back matter explains more about how and why someone might adopt a shelter pet. Shows how an older dog adapts to a new dog and helps teach him "everything he knows." Shows glimpses of life on the campaign trail (where reporters wear masks as they cover an event) and at the White House. Includes timeline of presidential pets from Washington to Obama. (President Donald Trump was the first president in 120 years not to have a dog in the White House.) Explanation in back matter about how many shelters let you foster a pet before adopting it, to see if it's a good fit. That's what the Bidens did with Major. 

Positive Messages

"When work is over, it's time to play!" Dogs help make sure you don't work all the time. 

Positive Role Models

Joe Biden looks kind and cheerful, always sporting a big smile. He's shown leaving the Delaware Humane Association's animal shelter with his adopted shelter dog, Major. He's shown at a campaign event with vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris (though she's not named in the text). White House staffers are shown with Champ; a woman with brown skin who's carrying briefing papers pats Major on the head, and a White chef shakes his paw and gives him a bone. "Everyone there does important work, but they always have time to say hello!" 

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Joy McCullough's Champ and Major: First Dogs is about President Joe Biden's pets. It starts with German shepherd Champ at home with Biden and his wife, Jill (though she's not named), and then shows Biden bringing home a shelter dog, a German shepherd puppy named Major. Champ shows the puppy the ropes and eventually the White House, which he had visited when Biden served as vice president. The book ends with the two dogs curled up asleep in the Oval Office as President Biden is working at his desk. Back matter includes a timeline of presidential pets from George Washington through Barack Obama. There's also information about adopting a shelter pet.

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What's the story?

When CHAMP AND MAJOR: FIRST DOGS starts, Vice President Joe Biden has a German Shepard named Champ, whose "job is to make sure his dad doesn't work too hard." Then Biden adopts a shelter dog, a German shepherd puppy he names Major. Champ teaches Major "everything he knows" and the two become freinds. One picture shows the dogs onstage during a Biden-Harris 2020 campaign event, and in the next one they're at home watching TV and seeing the news that Biden has been elected president. Champ shows Major around the White House, which he had visited when Biden was President Obama's vice president. A flashback scene shows Champ playing with Obama's Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny, on the White House lawn while the Obamas and Bidens look on from the Truman Balcony. The last spread shows Champ and Major asleep on separate dog beds in the Oval Office as President Biden is on the phone, working at his desk. 

Is it any good?

This cute, cheerful story of family pets that become residents of the White House is charming and simple and carries a positive message about adopting shelter animals. As we learn in the author's note, Champ lived with the Bidens in the vice president's residence during the Obama presidency. Ten years later, in 2018, they adopted Major, now the first shelter pet ever to live at the White House. 

The story is thin, lacking details about what Biden's important job is, or who that woman in her suit and Converse sneakers sharing the stage with him is, so adults will need to fill in some blanks as they read aloud. But Sheyda Abvabi Best's cartoon art is adorable and its pastel palette appealing. And the canine main characters deserve a big pat on the head. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Joe Biden brings home a shelter puppy in Champ and Major: First Dogs. Why might someone adopt a pet from an animal shelter instead of buying one from a breeder or a pet store? Do you know anyone who has a shelter dog? 

  • Why do you think most presidents have had pets? Would you have a pet if you became president? What would it be?

  • Champ and Major help make sure President Biden doesn't work all the time. How does playing or snuggling with an animal help someone relax? What do you do to relax?

Book details

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For kids who love books about animals and U.S. presidents

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