Obama’s Of Thee I Sing celebrates America and its youth
4 1/2 of 5 Stars
President Barack Obama is no stranger when it comes to putting the pen to paper. He has composed several award-winning publications, including The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream and Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Both novels are a mixture of politics, patriotism and contemplation of the American identity that defines us all. Now he has set his sights on a slightly different genre of literature: children’s books. Obama’s Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters is a tender, engaging read that celebrates the greatness of America.
The storyline utilized in Of Thee I Sing takes readers throughout American history while highlighting iconic figures who helped define our great nation. Obama’s narrative voice addresses his two daughters Malla and Sasha and asks them questions such as, “Have I told you that you are brave?” and, “ Have I told you that you have your own song?” He uses these questions to allude to the exploits of famous Americans who left a lasting impact on our country. Obama pays tribute to the artistry of Georgia O’Keeffe, the imagination of Albert Einstein and the unyielding compassion of Martin Luther King Jr. as he steers us through the annals of America’s history. Of Thee I Sing rejoices in the splendor of America and all the freedoms and opportunities it has to offer.
I found Of Thee I Sing to be a simplistic and engaging children’s read that has a patriotic message and loving tone. Obama’s abilities as a wordsmith have translated nicely into this simpler genre of literature, and he infuses passion into his text that gives a nice feeling of warmth throughout the entire story.
In children’s books, words convey only half the story; illustrations must do the rest. The pictures in Of Thee I Sing are bright and colorful watercolor images painted by Loren Long.
One of the highlights includes the visage of Sitting Bull painted into a Native American landscape. The continual appearance of Bo, Obama’s canine-in-chief, showcases Long’s attention to minute details via his brushstrokes.
Now I’m well-aware that at this current moment, Obama isn’t exactly high atop the nation’s approval ratings. In a time when political extremism has taken center stage, it seems you either love him or hate him. There is no doubt many critics will try to vilify every single aspect in Of Thee I Sing and condemn it as a piece of “socialist propaganda” aimed at corrupting our youth.
I sincerely hope readers can temporarily set aside their political bias, whether it is good or bad, so they can enjoy this book with a clear mind. Of course, this book is intended for kids under the age of six, so hopefully they don’t have any die-hard political agendas yet.
Obama’s first foray into children’s literature is a very good start. It isn’t an instant classic, but it is still a solid entry all of America can appreciate. Of Thee I Sing is a satisfying, patriotic take on the greatness of our country; it celebrates not only the historical icons, but Obama’s love for the youth of our nation.