Title: Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
Author(s): Barack Obama
Illustrator/Photographer: Loren Long
Publisher and Year: Alfred A. Knopf 2010
Number of pages: 29
Tags/Themes: Allison Henry, Diversity, Family, Non-fiction, Picture Book, K-1, 2-3
Descriptive Annotation: Of Thee I Sing is a letter from former president Barack Obama to his daughters, Sasha and Malia. Throughout the story, Obama brings up many of the positive character traits that the girls have, and then introduces them to a historic American who also has that character trait. On the left side of each pair of pages is an illustration of Malia and Sasha looking to the right page at an image of a historically important American. Joining them on the page is a younger version of the individual being portrayed and the younger versions of each individual that has been featured in the book previously. Under the large illustration of each individual is a couple sentences explaining why that person was influential in American history. The last page shows all of the younger versions standing together facing the reader, with text that begins, “Have I told you that America is made up of people of every kind?” The illustrations are done in acrylic and at the end of the book is a page with brief bios on each of the individuals featured in the book. A knowledge of influential people in American history would be helpful for students to fully understand this book, but it is not necessary. Students should know what the various character traits mentioned in the book are, to understand why the individuals were influential.
Classroom Application: This text connects to many different academic areas and a Social Emotional Learning Standard. The individuals featured in the text’s occupational areas range from fine arts to science, math to social sciences and everything in between. This book could be used in early or late elementary to meet SELS 1.B, “Recognize personal qualities and external supports.” The character traits in this book are positive characteristics that students should develop throughout their lifetime. This book could be used to introduce a project where students pick someone influential from history that they have something in common with and then compare themselves to the historical figure.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book represents many cultures. Some of the historical figures featured in the book include: Jackie Robinson, the first African American baseball player; Sitting Bull, a Sioux leader; Maya Lin, a Chinese American who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; Martin Luther King Jr., who fought for the civil rights of African Americans; and Cesar Chavez, a Mexican-American who fought for farm worker’s rights. This book shows that valuable contributions have been made to American history by people of all races and that America is great because it has such a diverse population. On the last page it says, “People of all races, religions, and beliefs. People from the coastlines and the mountains. People who have made bright lights shine by sharing their unique gifts and giving us the courage to lift one another up, to keep up the fight, to work and build upon all that is good in our nation.”