Kids Book Corner: Happy Birthday, President Obama

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Born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961, our 44th President just marked his 49th birthday. Kids can help celebrate this special birthday with books that will inspire conversation, laughs, and maybe even a letter for the President or the First Dog.

Obama: Only in America by Carole Boston Weatherford is an illustrated free-verse biography. Robert T. Barrett’s painterly illustrations do a nice job of placing Obama in the many worlds he has inhabited during his life — Hawaii, Indonesia, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington–although I’m not always sure the the Obama he paints is close enough to the real thing. Weatherford, while deeply admiring, includes rough times in Obama’s life: periods of self-doubt, his father’s absence, and his struggles with racial identity (Be warned: also included is a reference to “getting high.”). Each page presents a quotation from President Obama. Despite its flaws, this is a book that will inspire many conversations about tenacity, race, family, loss, and hope. Ages 10 and up.

The New York Times’s Obama: The Historic Journey by Jill Abramson and Bill Keller is a book parents can enjoy sharing with children 6 and up. The photographs are stunning and various, and powerfully narrate Barack Obama’s life and communicate the excitement of his political career. Included are articles from the New York Times and excerpts from the President’s speeches.

First Pooch: The Obamas Pick a Pet by Carole Boston Weatherford is a fun introduction to the first family’s newest member, Bo, and nicely covers the mystery surrounding his arrival in the White House after the President promised a dog to his daughters. Weatherford provides entertaining facts about previous First Dogs, their duties as national pets (“Negotiating treats. Fetching the presidential slippers. Greeting heads of state.”) and the promises other Presidents have made. (4-8 years).

Kids’ Letters to President Obama, Bill Adler and Bill Adler, Jr., editors, and McSweeney’s Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country will interest kids who like to write, who are passionate about issues, or who are interested in the President. In Kids’ Letters… facsimiles of children’s accompany the congratulations, suggestions, questions, and comments: “Do you think you will have time to read to your daughters?” asks 8 year old Ryan; 13 year old Freddy wonders, “How’s it going?”

Thanks and Have Fun… benefits 826 National, a nonprofit writing and tutoring network. I hope kids who read these are inspired to write their own letters to President Obama via the internet: ttp:// or through the mail to The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20500 (include email address).

Jo Perry has a Ph.D. in English, taught literature and writing, and worked as a college administrator and as a television writer and producer. She is a reviewer for and is an ongoing contributor to kidsLA Magazine for which she writes about the city, children’s books, and conducts interviews. For two years she wrote the Kids’ Book Club column for the L.A. Times’ Kids’ Reading Room page.

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.