Of Thee I Sing: Obama’s Picture Book


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

I was very leery of this book, because in my experience politicians and celebrities rank about equal for successful children’s book writing.  In other words, odds are good that it will be bad.  But I am so glad that I did eventually pick this one up and give it a try.  President Obama has written a letter to his daughters that asks a question like “Have I told you that you are creative?” He then offers an example of a famous American who exemplifies that character trait, summing them up in a few lines.  This is a celebration of what makes America great, but also what makes for a great person.  It is a celebration of all we hope our children will become.

President Obama’s words read like verse here.  The structure is a strong one with a question, a person as an example, and words that sum that person up simply and powerfully.  One of the pleasures of the book is that when you read it, you hear the President’s voice in your head, because the cadence matches the way that he speaks so closely.  Thanks to this, the book reads aloud beautifully.

Long’s illustrations feature the two Obama girls and their dog.  Then, as each famous American is mentioned, a child appears who is like that great person.  So a girl with paintbrushes and palette is there when Georgia O’Keeffe is featured.  A boy with a baseball bat, glove and ball is there when Jackie Robinson is given as an example of bravery.  And they join the group, so that by the end there is a crowd of diverse children listening to the book along with you.   Long’s style changes when he depicts the famous Americans.  Where the children are lighthearted and full of whimsy, there is a more serious feel to the great Americans. 

A beauty of a book no matter who the author is, this book is one to be appreciated by all Americans no matter their politics.  This will make a great holiday gift this year.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.

Please read Debbie Reese’s reaction to the Sitting Bull image on her blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature.  I respect her opinion immensely.

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4 thoughts on “Of Thee I Sing: Obama’s Picture Book

  1. I very much appreciate your review because I have the same trepidations you did about this book. However as a dad with a toddler daughter, I am absolutely in love with the idea of a dad writing a picture book letter to his daughter(s). And I agree, no matter your politics I think that alone is a beautiful message.


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