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Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

Last updated Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Author: Barack Obama
Illustrator: Loren Long
Date of Publication: 2010
ISBN: 9780375835278
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jun. 2011

Synopsis: From School Library Journal
Grade 2–5—In characteristically measured prose, the 44th President introduces 13 American icons and heroes as exemplars of personal virtues, from Georgia O'Keeffe (creativity) and Jackie Robinson (courage) to Helen Keller (strength) and Cesar Chavez (inspiration). Though he includes Billie Holiday in his gallery (a gifted singer, but an iffy role model) along with a free translation of Chavez's !Si se puede! as "Yes, you can!" (which was his campaign slogan: the official UFW version is a more accurate but stiffer "Yes, it can be done!"), Obama offers general but cogent summations of why each figure merits admiration—Martin Luther King Jr., for instance, "taught us unyielding compassion," and Helen Keller, "never waiting for life to get easier," "gave others courage to face their challenges." Long's superb technical gifts and gentle sense of humor shine in the pictures. Posed nobly and, usually, hard at work in full-page scenes, each man or woman also appears as a willowy but recognizable child on the facing and following pages, joining a growing crowd of young observers gazing across the center stitching and exchanging symbolic tools of their various trades. Their ranks swelled with more children, these younger versions turn to face viewers on the penultimate spread, followed by a closing painting of the author walking with his daughters and a page of reasonably accurate historical notes. As well as offering thought-provoking choices and commentary, this stately outing leads naturally to Lynne Cheney's more populous America: A Patriotic Primer (S & S, 2002) as first introductions to our country's great ones.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Who is the President of the United States?
•  He has two daughters and they have a dog, Bo.
•  Where do they live?

•  Kin – relatives
•  Braid – to weave together

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Who are your heroes?
•  Why are they your heroes?
•  Is it difficult to be brave?
•  When did you want to give up but continued?
•  Where is a new place you would like to go?

Craft ideas:
•  Write a letter to Malia, Sasha, and Bo.
•  Draw your favorite hero.
•  Draw a picture of you living in the White House.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!