Illustration:©2011 Loren Long | Knopf
Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
By Barack Obama Illustrated by Loren Long
On the title page of President Barack Obama’s picture book, Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, the president’s young daughters, Malia and Sasha, are walking down a road as their papa looks on from a distance. The text begins:
Have I told you lately how wonderful you are?
How the sound of your feet running from afar brings dancing rhythms to my day?
How you laugh and sunshine spills into the room?
The left side of each two-page spread asks a question—“Have I told you that you are creative?” “Have I told you that you are brave?” “Have I told you that you have your own song?”—and shows the sisters approaching another child. The right side of each two-page spread identifies that child, pictures the individual as an adult, and explains the contributions to history. On the last page, father and daughters, hand in hand, continue their walk.
Much has been written about Of Thee I Sing, which the publisher’s copy describes as “a moving tribute to 13 groundbreaking Americans”—my guess is to memorialize the original 13 colonies—“and the ideals that have shaped our nation.” The book is a celebration of Obama’s young daughters and a celebration of “the characteristics that unite all Americans.” Much of the text is lyrical and moving. Many of the acrylic paintings, reminiscent of Thomas Hart Benton’s style in a glowing, subdued palette, are lovely.