Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

What It Is

Prior to taking his oath of office, Barack Obama penned his first children’s book, which was recently released. Written as a “letter” to his two young daughters, President Obama pays tribute to thirteen Americans who he believes embody the ideals of our country and have made “groundbreaking” achievements. Among the chosen thirteen are “usual” heroes such as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and George Washington. There are folks that aren’t household names such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Billie Holiday and Cesar Chavez, among others.

Each page poses a question about his daughters’ talents, starting with the phrase “Have I told you ...”, and then features an American who is known for that particular gift. For example, “smart” is followed by Albert Einstein, Neil Armstrong follows “explorer,” and so on. Obama briefly gives some insight on their achievements and the “letter” concludes with a beautiful montage of about thirty children, including the thirteen heroes featured as kids. President Obama will donate all of his proceeds to a scholarship fund created for the children of fallen and disabled U.S. soldiers.

Why It’s Fun

Kids will enjoy identifying the heroes featured in Loren Long’s stunning illustrations, as well as learning about new ones. To be honest, I thought the book fell flat, but both my girls really liked it. There are some lines that evoke President Obama’s poignant speaking style. However, I thought he didn’t provide much insight as to why these Americans were groundbreaking. Apparently, he gave enough facts for my kids to enjoy it, though, and that’s what counts. Perhaps they’ll learn the history of these Americans later.

Mr. Long’s brilliant illustrations are what make the book such a positive and strong experience, and each stands alone as a wonderful representation of each subject. Mr. Long’s drawings of Malia and Sasha are joined by each notable American as a child, which builds through the book. My kindergartner recognized this sequence immediately and asked to bring the book in to show her teacher.

Who’s Going To Love It

The publisher’s recommended age is three and up, which is young to understand many of the heroes’ accomplishments in any kind of depth. However, the book is a meaningful way to introduce key figures in U.S. history and a nice-to-have because it’s written by a U.S. president. Either way, it’s worth a read. But because it got mixed reviews in my house, when the choice come to “buy” or “borrow,” I would suggest borrowing first and then putting the purchase decision to a vote in your home.

Reading Time

About four to five minutes.

Read-It-Again Points

7 out of 10

Book Information

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
By: Barack Obama; Illustrated by Loren Long
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books (2010)
Approximate retail price: $17.99 (hardcover)
Publisher’s recommended ages: 3 and up


What do you think about Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters?

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