BEFORE his election to the presidency, Barack Obama completed a 40-page (hardcover) children’s book titled, “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters.”
I highlight “before” because the president is already being criticized for having time to write the book in the White House!
In the book – a poetic and educational letter to daughters, Sasha and Malia – Obama pays tribute to 13 inspirational Americans – Painter Georgia O’Keeffe, Albert Einstein, Jackie Robinson, Sitting Bull, Singer Billie Holiday, Helen Keller, Artist Maya Lin, Social worker Jane Addams, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Astronaut Neil Armstrong, Cesar Chavez, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.
All proceeds from “Of Thee I Sing” will go to a scholarship fund for children of disabled and dead soldiers.
Dedicated to Michelle — whose fierce love and daily good sense have nourished such wonderful daughters.
The book, exquisitely illustrated by Loren Long, starts with the following heart-tugging stanza:
Have I told you lately how wonderful you are?
How the sound of your feet
running from afar
brings dancing rhythms to my day?
How you laugh
and sunshine spills into the room?
Anthony Browne at Guardian UK
When I was asked to review this book, I must admit to a slight feeling of dread. I’m a great admirer of Barack Obama, both for what he has achieved and what he’s trying to achieve. But part of me was thinking: Oh, no, not another “celebrity” children’s book, another example of a famous person thinking it’s easy to write a kid’s book – and even easier to write the text of a picture book.
I needn’t have worried. Although the poetic language is perhaps trying a little too hard and the text is sometimes too heavy with message, it’s a worthwhile book that stands up in its own right. A tribute to 13 innovative Americans, from Georgia O’Keeffe to George Washington, it suggests that all the characteristics of these heroes are present in every child (or at least every American child). This message is a familiar one to me, for whenever I speak to young children I always ask them: “Can you draw?” or: “Can you make up stories?” The answer is always yes. I tell them that when I was their age I didn’t draw or write any better than they do; the only difference between me and most adults is that I didn’t stop drawing or making up stories as I got older. Most children do.
From Random House
ABOUT THIS BOOK
In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O’Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America’s children.
Breathtaking, evocative illustrations by award-winning artist Loren Long at once capture the personalities and achievements of these great Americans and the innocence and promise of childhood.
This beautiful book celebrates the characteristics that unite all Americans, from our nation’s founders to generations to come. It is about the potential within each of us to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths. It is a treasure to cherish with your family forever.
From Julie Bosman NYT
On sale for about a week, “Of Thee I Sing,” President Obama’s 31-page children’s picture book, an ode to 13 inspirational Americans written as a letter to his daughters, Malia and Sasha, is already on the best-seller lists on Amazon.com and BN.com.
“If Barack Obama wants to quit his day job (and maybe he might), he can probably make it as a children’s book author. Certainly, this is a beautiful package: thoughtfully conceived, handsomely illustrated and designed, and with a tight yet evocative text that brings children into the world of 13 famous Americans. Framed as a letter to his daughters (“Have I told you lately how wonderful you are?” the book begins), each double-page spread then asks a question that is exemplified by a person of note. “Have I told you that you are creative?” introduces Georgia O’Keeffe, who “helped us see big beauty in what is small: / the hardness of stone and the softness of feather.” Most of the people briefly profiled are expected names—George Washington, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, César Chávez—but there are a few outliers here as well, including Billie Holiday and Sitting Bull. As the spreads turn, other children join (the unnamed) Malia and Sasha on the question page, each embodying their own special gifts and talents. Long’s exceptional artwork has a timeless, Rockwellian quality that serves the text well, and the congregation of the children at the book’s conclusion will have readers looking and looking again. An addendum features a bit more about each person highlighted. Parents will be happy to talk to their own children about how creative or kind or strong they are and reiterate, as the president does, their place in the American family. — Ilene Cooper”—Booklist, starred review
The book can be found here: Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama on Amazon
# Reading level: Ages 4-8
# Hardcover: 40 pages
# Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (November 16, 2010)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 037583527X
# ISBN-13: 978-0375835278