Former Reagan staffer pens children’s book ‘Wrigley at the White House’

"Wrigley at the White House" by Karna Bodman.
(Karna Bodman)

Rancho Santa Fe’s Karna Bodman has released a new children’s book, “Wrigley at the White House”, a playful non-political book that draws from Bodman’s experiences serving six years in President Ronald Reagan’s White House in the 1980s, first as deputy press secretary and later as senior director of the National Security Council.

While the author has previously published five political thrillers, her latest work is her first geared toward the younger set.

“I thought it would be a good idea to write a story that would not only entertain kids but teach them about the White House,” Bodman said.

To showcase the new book, Bodman has several signing events coming up including Sunday, Aug. 20 at Warwick’s in La Jolla from 2:30-4:30 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 26 at Barnes & Noble in Encinitas, where at 11 a.m. she will read and tell stories at children’s hour and then she will be available from 12-3 p.m. for book signings. Bodman and “Wrigley at the White House” will also be featured at a signing on Sunday, Sept. 3 at Diesel bookstore in Del Mar Highlands Town Center from 1-4 p.m.

Author Karna Bodman
(Copyright Karna Bodman)

For the “Wrigley” book Bodman worked with illustrator Susan Spellman to pair her words with “wonderful” drawings, sending her all sorts of photos of the White House from her personal collection. Spellman created authentic drawings of all the different rooms—the Oval Office, the State Dining Room with its fancy tables and the portrait of Abe Lincoln, and the Red Room and its gold-framed portrait of First Lady Dolley Madison.

In the book, the four-year-old first twins who live in the White House get a puppy for their birthday. “I named it Wrigley because I’m from Chicago,” Bodman said.

The story, told all in rhyme, tells how the mischievous pup runs around the house causing havoc everywhere while also solving a problem for their dad, the president.

At the end of the story are several true stories about dogs in the White House under different presidents.

“I was there for six years and I had fabulous experiences,” said Bodman, who was working as a TV reporter in San Francisco when she was selected to serve under Reagan.

“I was pretty blown away when I got the call,” said Bodman, who had earned his trust as a fair reporter during his time as the California governor. “I was thrilled to go in there, it was quite a learning curve.”

After her time in the White House, Bodman ran her own public affairs firm for many years—being an author is her third career. On book tours she has given speeches around the country telling White House tales—“I tell them all about the difficult times as well as lighthearted times.”

Of the more darker times: she was supposed to be in the car with Press Secretary James Brady on the March 1981 day of the assassination attempt on Reagan’s life. At the last minute, Brady told her to stay behind and that’s when they walked out of the Washington Hilton Hotel: “I would have been standing right there when Hinckley fired those six shots,” Bodman said. Brady survived a gunshot wound to the head and Reagan was shot in the chest.

It was a difficult time but Bodman said Reagan came through it with his sense of humor intact. When Nancy rushed to his side at the hospital, he pulled a line from the prizefighter Jack Dempsey: “Honey, I forgot to duck.”

“The bullet lodged one inch from his heart and later I learned that for the eight years of his presidency, he exchanged letters with all the doctors that saved his life,” Bodman said. “They’ve treasured those letters.”

President Ronald Reagan talks with then-Deputy Press Secretary Karna Bodman in the State Dining Room in 1983.
(Copyright Karna Bodman)

During her time with Reagan she rode on Air Force One and had an office near the Situation Room where she felt extremely plugged in. She enjoyed Reagan’s generosity, such as being invited to bring her family to a picnic on the South Lawn for the July 4 holiday.

“I think about that quite often,” she said of the wonderful memory of watching the fireworks over the White House with her sons.

With the White House setting and Wrigley, Bodman said this book is the first in what she hopes to be a multi-book series. She is already planning the second book, “Wrigley’s White House Christmas.”

“There are endless possibilities, we’ll see how it goes,” Bodman said. “I just hope that children will enjoy it.”

Find the book on Amazon at or