14 January 2011

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

My friend Belle is sleeping over tonight. She is eight years old and quite enthusiastic about books. We're watching Coraline, pausing frequently to talk about this and that. I told her I was writing some book reviews again and she asked what kids' book I was going to read next. I looked at the huge stack I just brought home from the library and pulled out the slimmest volume, one I had actually already read earlier today.

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama is a lovely book. I opened it to show her and read the first page aloud:

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?

"Ooh!" Belle interrupted me. "The whole book is like poetry?"

Yes, exactly. The whole book is like poetry. After that lyrical introduction, each two page spread begins with a question: "Have I told you that you are... smart? creative? a healer?" The facing page describes an American who embodies the previously mentioned virtue. For example, Jackie Robinson portrays brave, he
... showed us all

how to turn fear to respect
and respect to love...
...and gave brave dreams to others.
The book concludes with Obama reminding his daughters how much he loves them. Using a wide variety of Americans to illustrate the virtues he sees in his daughters, this beautiful book also becomes a love song to the American people.

Loren Long's acrylic paintings make ample use of white space and complement the poetic text perfectly. I definitely plan to buy a copy for my child.

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