Illustrator Loren Long teams up with President Barack Obama to create a picture book tribute to several notable Americans in the form of a letter from the First Father to his daughters. The text is minimal and begins with questions for Malia and Sasha—“Have I told you lately how wonderful you are? How the sound of your feet running from afar brings dancing rhythms to my day?”
Other questions for the girls introduce discussions of famous figures from throughout the nation’s history. “Have I told you that you are creative?” the president asks his daughters, eliciting a brief comment about painter Georgia O’Keeffe. Some of those included here are obvious choices: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Neil Armstrong, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson. Other memorable Americans highlighted might surprise the reader: Billie Holiday, Albert Einstein, Sitting Bull, Maya Lin, Jane Addams and Cesar Chavez are also on the list.
Loren Long’s tall and thin stylized illustrations are perfect for the images of the Obama children and the president and serve to add visual interest to the spare text. Especially memorable are the images of O’Keeffe painting an enormous flower, Maya Lin reflected in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the young Chavez addressing farm workers. On the opposite page are smaller images of Malia and Sasha, joined by images of the famous folk carrying the tools of their given work. The final spread is a joyful collection of all sorts of American children with young versions of the famous standing in the front row.
While folks might argue about who was included or not in this selection of 13 American icons, there is little doubt that children will enjoy learning a little about them through the illustrated pages and the biographical notes at the end. Families or teachers looking for an accessible introduction to a diverse slice of notable Americans will enjoy this collection.
Obama wrote the book before becoming president and is donating profits from its publication to the families of injured service members.