Barack Obama

( 32 )

Overview

Nikki Grimes's lyrical text and Bryan Collier's distinctive collages tell the inspirational story of President Barack Obama. Raised in Jakarta and Hawaii, Obama's election as President represented a watershed moment in our nation's history. Like JFK and Martin Luther King, Obama is a link in the long chain of people who have fought so that this country fulfills the promises upon which it was founded.

Just as the baton has been passed to Obama from previous leaders, Obama is a ...

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Overview

Nikki Grimes's lyrical text and Bryan Collier's distinctive collages tell the inspirational story of President Barack Obama. Raised in Jakarta and Hawaii, Obama's election as President represented a watershed moment in our nation's history. Like JFK and Martin Luther King, Obama is a link in the long chain of people who have fought so that this country fulfills the promises upon which it was founded.

Just as the baton has been passed to Obama from previous leaders, Obama is a role model for the young people who will one day assume the mantle of leadership, and this book will celebrate and inspire them.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This beautifully illustrated biography relates the inspiring story of Barack Obama, the first African American to become president of the United States. By the author of the Coretta Scott King Honor Books Road to Paris and Jazmin's Notebook.
Publishers Weekly

"One day Hope stopped by for a visit," begins this biography, narrowly framed as an exchange between an African-American mother and her son. They sit together on a "frayed" sofa in a "tenement" as she tells him who "Braco-what?" is and why he is so special; at the end she blinks back tears when he tells her that he, too, wants to be president when he grows up. (Hope later talks to Barack Obama, as does God.) Grimes (Bronx Masquerade) approaches her themes with a heavy hand, starting with her treatment of race as she describes "his mama, white as whipped cream,/ his daddy, black as ink" (she gets at awe similarly: "Barry's mom married/ a man named Lolo/ and-Oh! The wonderland/ he took Barry to: Indonesia"). Collier uses watercolor and collage, a choice he explains as a metaphor for the way Obama has "piece[d] life's issues together to create a courageous vision for the world." There is much to find in each composition (artfully placed photo images, batik patterns, etc.), but the illustrations often feel static and a few (like the one in which a single tear streams momentously down Obama's cheek), stagy. Ages 5-10. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal

K-Gr 5

A bright child of humble background is encouraged by the adults around him to believe that he is capable of doing anything he wants to do. Sound familiar? It's called the American Dream, and the boy is Barack Obama, a biracial child who has gone on to change the course of history. This picture-book biography serves to educate children not only about Obama's journey thus far, but also to connect his circumstances to their own. In particular, children of color now know that they too have boundless potential. Grimes's imagery, however, is occasionally overblown as both Hope and God speak directly to Obama. His impressive life story needs no inflating, and the heavy imagery gets in the way of the message. Collier's vivid watercolor and collage artwork brings the varied aspects of the man's life together. From the sparkling beaches of Hawaii where he played as a child to the brown, arid village in Kenya where his father was buried, readers see Obama always reaching toward the future. Despite the overly laudatory tone, this book is an appealing addition to biography collections.-Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

Kirkus Reviews
When David wonders why all those people on TV are shouting one man's name, his mother tells him Barack Obama's story. Accompanied by Collier's trademark, powerful collages, Grimes's storytelling voice, heavily tinged with the gospel rhythms of the black church, relates the particulars of Obama's youth, from his childhood in Hawaii and yearning for his estranged father, to his days as a community activist in Illinois, in the Senate and, most briefly, his presidential campaign. David's questions and his mother's responses punctuate each double-page spread, never letting readers forget the story's frame. It's a contrivance that works, perhaps because it's so obviously informed by the author's own passion, described in a concluding note. Based primarily on Obama's Dreams from My Father (2004) as well as other sources, this work stands on shaky nonfiction ground, as Grimes admits to taking artistic license; most troubling are unsourced quotations within the text. Still, of the three candidates' picture-book biographies out this season, this stands as the one most likely to communicate to children on a visceral level. (author's, illustrator's notes, resources, timeline, family tree) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743597197
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Publication date: 1/16/2009
  • Format: MP3
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Age range: 5 years
  • Ships to U.S.and APO/FPO addresses only.

Meet the Author

NIKKI GRIMES is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include the ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, as well as the novels Jazmin's Notebook, Dark Sons, and The Road to Paris, all of them Coretta Scott King Author Honor Books. She won the Coretta Scott King Author Award for Bronx Masquerade. Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California. Visit Nikki at www.nikkigrimes.com.

NIKKI GRIMES is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include the ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, as well as the novels Jazmin's Notebook, Dark Sons, and The Road to Paris, all of them Coretta Scott King Author Honor Books. She won the Coretta Scott King Author Award for Bronx Masquerade. Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California. Visit Nikki at www.nikkigrimes.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Barack Obama, Jr.

On August 4, 1961, a baby boy was born at Kapi'olani Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. He weighed eight pounds, two ounces. His parents, Ann and Barack, named him after his father, Barack Hussein Obama, but they called their child "Barry."

Barack Obama, Sr., was a foreign exchange student from Kenya, a country in east-central Africa. He was twenty-five years old, studying on a scholarship at the University of Hawaii. He was the very first African student at the school.

Barack was tall and charming, with a voice "like black velvet," as his mother-in-law Madelyn Dunham described it, "with a British accent." He had come from a poor family, herding goats as a boy. His father, of the Luo tribe, had been a domestic servant for the British colonials. Now Kenya was on the brink of gaining independence from Britain.

Barack was determined to accomplish great things, both for himself and for his country. It was a great honor for a youth from his humble background to study at American schools and earn an advanced degree in economics. But he also had a heavy responsibility to his people, and he intended to return to Kenya and help lead the country into a brighter future.

Ann Dunham was an eighteen-year-old freshman at the University of Hawaii in 1960 when she met Barack in a Russian class. A quiet but independent-minded girl, she had dark curly hair and dark eyebrows like her father's. She read serious books about reforming society, and she eagerly spent hours in long, earnest discussions with her friends.

Ann lived with her parents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham, in a rambling house near the university campus. Stanley was a furniture salesman, while Madelyn worked for a bank. Both Stanley and Madelyn had grown up in Kansas, but after they married, they lived in several states before settling in Hawaii.

When Ann first brought Barack home for dinner, her parents, especially Madelyn, were uneasy. They had never met anyone from Africa before. But Barack quickly won them over with his charm, and they were impressed with his brilliant mind and his confidence.

However, the Dunhams were unpleasantly surprised in February 1961, when Ann and Barack eloped to the island of Maui and came back married. Stanley and Madelyn were disappointed that Ann, so bright and inquisitive of mind, was dropping out of college after only one semester. Madelyn also feared that the cultural differences between their American daughter and this African young man were too great.

Barack's father, Hussein Onyango Obama, who lived in Kenya, was also surprised and very upset at the news. He threatened to get Barack's travel visa cancelled, so he'd have to return to Kenya. He pointed out that Barack already had family responsibilities: a wife and two children in Kenya. Also, he warned his son, an American wife wasn't likely to be understandingabout the African custom of a man having more than one family. Furthermore, Onyango wrote Stanley Dunham a long, angry letter. As Barry's mother told him years later, Barack's father "didn't want the Obama blood sullied by a white woman."

Barack refused to obey his father, and the Dunhams accepted their daughter's choice. For two years Barack and Ann lived with their baby in a small white house near the university campus. Then in 1963, Barack graduated from the University of Hawaii and won a scholarship to study economics at Harvard University in Massachusetts. The scholarship didn't allow enough money to bring Ann and their son with him, but Barack felt he couldn't pass up the chance to study at such a prestigious...

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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Nikki Grimes

Q: There is so much information out there about Senator Obama, especially in these past few months. What inspired you to write a children's book about Barack Obama?

A: Initially, the project was brought to me by editors Justin Chanda and Alexandra Cooper. At the time, all I knew about Barack Obama is that he was a rising star in the Democratic Party, and that he'd thrown his hat in the ring to campaign for his party's nomination for President. That, in itself, had me intrigued. Then, as I researched his life, I discovered a rich story, parts of which (spear fishing in Hawaii, pet gibbons and pet crocodiles in Djakarta) virtually screamed kid-appeal. And it was a story bound to have enormous resonance with many of today's children who, like Obama was, are being raised by single parents, or who live with grandparents, or who wrestle with the impact of an absent father. Most importantly, his story is one of triumph, and children cannot read too many stories of winning against all odds. Such stories are especially important for children of color.

Q: Tell me about the research you did prior to writing this book.

A: The time frame for this book was short, and so I put myself on a daily reading regimen. I began with Obama's elegantly written memoir, Dreams from My Father, read parts of The Audacity of Hope, devoured countless speeches, quotes, audio clips and articles; and read an earlier juvenile biography by Marlene Targ Brill.

Q: How were you able to make Barack Obama's complicated life story age-appropriate and accessible for young children?

A: That is always the challenge. The only trick to it is to look at the material through a child's eyes. The other key is to simplify, simplify, simplify. For instance, rather than attempting to explain Obama's legislative work on the state level, or even the intricacies of street organizing, I focused on the goals of that work: to get people involved in the issues, to bring them together, to try to make life better for everyone. Those are concepts a child can wrap his mind around. Every aspect of Obama's complex story had to be simplified, to some extent. It isn't merely a matter of using a limited vocabulary. One has to keep in mind what is socially and emotionally age-appropriate, as well. In general, though, poetry is the perfect genre for compressing complex stories into a relatively small and accessible format. And, again, there was much in his story that had resonance for young readers.

Q: What do you hope children will retain after reading this book?

A: That no matter where you begin in life, no matter what the color of your skin, if you believe in yourself, if you apply yourself, if you remember that God has a dream for you bigger than you can imagine, then anything is possible. The sky is truly the limit, and that sky now includes the possibility of becoming President of the United States of America.

Q: Why do you think it is important for children to be informed about our election process?

A: Because our democracy is one of the greatest things they will inherit. It is important for them to understand how it works, and the role each of us plays as citizens. Books such as Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope won't necessarily teach them about the process of government, but it will open the discussion. If we can get children excited about the personalities in government, it's a short step to energizing their interest in the workings of that government.

Q: What are you working on next?

A: Two young adult novels and a picture book of historical fiction. I always seem to be juggling projects!
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Customer Reviews

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