BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama, illustrated by Loren Long

Of Thee I SingYes, President Obama’s first picture book is, of course, a gorgeous gift to his two young daughters. But it’s also quite a legacy for every child anywhere as it reminds us that a child’s potential is virtually unlimited in what he or she can grow up to be.

In telling his daughters the story of America, Daddy Obama includes the lives of 13 American heroes who used their gifts to change the world … from the creative young girl who grew up to be artist Georgia O’Keeffe who “helped us see big beauty in what is small,” to the brave boy who became baseball legend Jackie Robinson “and showed us all how to turn fear to respect and respect to love,” to a kind little girl who became Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams who “taught adults and invited children to play and laugh and let their spirits grow wide,” to an inspiring boy who grew up to be activist Cesar Chavez who “showed farmworkers their own power when they felt they had none.”

The good Prez’s illustrator, Loren Long, cleverly captures the transformation from young child to hero … on the left side of each double-page spread is a growing audience of kiddies, while the right side shows the grown-up hero those children become. Long never misses an opportunity to infuse a moment of humor – check out young George Washington in red breeches holding a glinting ax behind his back, looking up at his own grown self inspiring his tattered troops through a harsh winter landscape.

Obama’s thoughtful book is a love letter to all Americans: “People of all races, religions, and beliefs. People … giving us the courage to lift one another up, and keep up the fight, to work and build upon all that is good in our nation.” He reminds his daughters (and the rest of us, ahem!) that all these diverse Americans “are all a part of you … that you are one of them … that you are the future.”

So of course no book is ever safe from critics, although I have to wonder if Obama’s detractors actually read all 40 pages here. The mud is flying around, especially over Obama’s choice to include Sitting Bull. A Fox News headline started out as “Obama Praises Indian Chief Who Killed U.S. General” but later backed down to “Obama Praises Indian Chief Who Defeated U.S. General.” Uhm … most leaders do everything they can to protect their people, especially when their nation is being violently invaded and eventually stolen.

The other criticism repeatedly popping up is that Obama took all those cushy White House hours (and taxpayers’ funding) to sit around and write this book. The accompanying press release sent with the title is clearly ready with a disclaimer (!): “The book was acquired and the manuscript completed prior to the President’s taking office in January 2009.”

But enough squabbling! Go read the actual book with your own children this Thanksgiving … sharing this love letter will surely fill you with gratitude.

Readers: All

Published: 2010


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