I suppose I had heard somewhere that our president had written a children’s book. Perhaps I’d even seen it on display at the bookstore, but I must have blown it off. Bad call on my part. I found Of Thee I Sing, A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama at our used bookstore, and in my first quick flip-through, I was committed. This, my friends, is my kind of children’s book. History? Check. Empowerment? Check. Amazing illustrations? Check. Getting choked up on the last page every freaking time I read it? Check.
In it, Obama introduces a series of great Americans by the ideals they represented to a group of children, encouraging them each to believe the same is in themselves. The creativity of Georgia O’Keeffe, the intelligence and imagination of Albert Einstein, the courage of Jackie Robinson, the healing wisdom of Sitting Bull, the song and emotion of Billie Holiday, the strength of Helen Keller, the responsibility to honor sacrifices of Maya Lin, the kindness of Jane Addams, the resolve of Martin Luther King Jr, the adventurousness of Neil Armstrong, the inspiration of Cesar Chavez, the kinship of Abraham Lincoln, and the pride and patriotism of George Washington all inspire a group of boys and girls of all colors and creeds living in America, that these heroes are a part of all of us.
“Have I told you that you are brave? A man named Jackie Robinson played baseball and showed us all how to turn fear to respect and respect to love. He swung his bat with the grace and strength of a lion and gave brave dreams to other dreamers.”
Apparently the president wrote the book in 2008 after he was elected, but before he was sworn in and it was published in 2010. It is an ode to his two daughters, and is dedicated to his wife “whose fierce love and daily good sense have nourished such wonderful daughters.” It’s worth noting that 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the book went to a scholarship fund for the children of fallen and disabled US veterans.
And the fine illustrations? One Loren Long, of Otis fame. His rich renditions of the people profiled shine throughout the book, starting with the title page, in which we view our president from behind as he watches Sasha and Malia brightly marching down a path.
It’s a great read-aloud book and is an excellent conversation starter for children, introducing not only American history, but qualities worth striving for.