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Happy Birthday, Mister President

Today is President Obama’s birthday. To celebrate, here are some books by and about our forty-fourth president. The titles below were reviewed and recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide at the time of their publication; reviews (with dates) reprinted below. For more, here are booklists about presidents’ families and First Ladies of the United States.

Picture Books

alexander_praisesongAlexander, Elizabeth Praise Song for the Day: A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration
32 pp. HarperCollins/Tegen 2012. ISBN 978-0-06-192663-1
Illustrated by David Diaz. A mother and son travel through a luminous American landscape as the words of the poem celebrating President Obama’s first inauguration reverberate throughout the book. There are no explanations here for the reader, just strong images and strong words: “On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp, / praise song for walking forward in that light.”

blanco_onetodayBlanco, Richard One Today
40 pp. Little 2015. ISBN 978-0-316-37144-5
Illustrated by Dav Pilkey. A small African American girl and her companion, a Caucasian boy, explore the world described by poet Richard Blanco on the occasion of Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration. The verbal imagery is striking, and Pilkey’s acrylic and India-ink paintings (done in the style he used in The Paperboy) make the adult thoughts more accessible to children.

obama_ourenduringObama, Barack Our Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama’s First Words to America
48 pp. HarperCollins/Harper 2009. ISBN 978-0-06-183455-4 LE ISBN 978-0-06-183456-1
Illustrated by Greg Ruth. This text is comprised of excerpts from President Obama’s inaugural speech. The selections reflect his awareness of connections throughout history, his faith in Americans, celebration of the multiculturalism of today’s society, and recognition of youth as the country’s future. In dramatic paintings showing sketchlike figures and sweeping colors against white backgrounds, Ruth reflects the significance of Obama’s words.

Easy Readers

corey obamaCorey, Shana Barack Obama: Out of Many, One
48 pp. Random 2009. LE ISBN 978-0-375-96339-1 PE ISBN 978-0-375-86339-4
Illustrated by James Bernardin. Step into Reading series. This engaging easy-reader biography of President Obama (who is referred to as “Barack” throughout) provides interesting details about his unconventional childhood. It also depicts the excitement of his historic victory, while emphasizing his interest in finding a way for everyone to work together to make America a better place for all. Soft-focus realistic illustrations emphasize the man’s approachability.

gilpin_barackGilpin, Caroline Crosson Barack Obama
32 pp. National Geographic Books 2014. LE ISBN 978-1-4263-1760-6 PE ISBN 978-1-4263-1759-0
National Geographic Readers series. Short chapters with challenging but controlled vocabulary track President Obama’s path to becoming the first black presidents of the United States; pre-presidential civil rights work is emphasized more than presidential policy. “Words to Know” boxes and in-text transliteration support independent reading. Bright photographs, fact boxes, and pullout quotes increase accessibility. Timeline. Glos.


abramson_obamaAbramson, Jill Obama: The Historic Journey
96 pp. Callaway 2009. ISBN 978-0-670-01208-4
This summary of the Obamas’ “historic journey” (concentrating on the presidential campaign, election, and inauguration) is beautifully designed, with numerous high-quality photographs. Supplemental information includes a family tree, sidebars on Obama’s and John McCain’s differing campaign positions, and a spread on how the New York Times election issue was created. Best for browsing, not reports; there’s no index or bibliography.

gormley_barackGormley, Beatrice Barack Obama: Our Forty-Fourth President
266 pp. Simon/Aladdin 2015. ISBN 978-1-4814-4648-8 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-4650-1
Real-Life Story series. New ed., 2008. This well-researched biography (accompanied by black-and-white photo inserts) details President Obama’s life, starting with early childhood and moving thoughtfully through career highs and lows. Engaging, accessible descriptions of complicated issues balance the mostly complementary tone and provide a compelling introduction to the political process. Timeline. Bib., ind.

mendell_obamaMendell, David Obama: A Promise of Change
182 pp. HarperCollins/Amistad 2008. ISBN 978-0-06-169701-2 PE ISBN 978-0-06-169700-5
Adapted by Sarah L. Thomson. For middle-grade readers curious about Barack Obama, this adaptation of a book for adults is a useful if adulatory resource. The text outlines Obama’s early life, community organizing, and election to the Senate, ending before he secures the Democratic presidential nomination. Quotes from the author’s interviews with Obama and his circle personalize the text; photos of a young “Barry” are included.

nelson_changeNelson, Kadir Change Has Come: An Artist Celebrates Our American Spirit
64 pp. Simon 2009. ISBN 978-1-4169-8955-4
The inspirational quotations constituting this offering’s text are culled from five of Barack Obama’s better-known speeches predating his inauguration. The corresponding drawings–loose-handed graphite sketches showing President Obama, his family, and diverse supporters–realize Nelson’s stated intent: to remind readers of “the greatness of our country and its ability to grow and change for the better.”

Young Adult

davis_barackDavis, William Michael Barack Obama: The Politics of Hope
168 pp. OTTN 2007. LE ISBN 978-1-59556-024-7
Shapers of America series. Davis highlights President Obama’s activism, consensus building, and ability to inspire constituents. Though the text is dense, the many quotations and photographs add accessibility. The book concludes with Obama’s entering the primary race. Reading list, timeline, websites. Ind.

lewis_march book one_170x248Lewis, John and Aydin, Andrew March: Book One
128 pp. Top Shelf 2013. ISBN 978-1-60309-300-2
Illustrated by Nate Powell. Congressman John Lewis–the last surviving member of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders–recounts his formative years in this first volume of a planned trilogy. The book opens on “Bloody Sunday” then fast-forwards to Barack Obama’s January 2009 inauguration. The volume is well designed and the story expertly paced. Powell re-creates the time period vividly through his emotion-filled black-and-white art.

wagner_barackWagner, Heather Lehr Barack Obama: Politician
98 pp. Chelsea 2008. LE ISBN 978-0-7910-9716-8
Black Americans of Achievement, Legacy Edition series. This biography details President Obama’s rise to national and international recognition. The book goes beyond the typical personal information to provide some social history relevant to his time. Captioned photographs and boxed inserts enhance the conversational text. Reading list, timeline, websites. Ind.

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