As the world now knows, Barack Obama has made history as our first African-American president. With black-and-white illustrations throughout, this biography is perfect for primary graders looking for a longer, fuller life story than is found in the author's bestselling beginning reader Barack Obama: United States President.
-teach children about our president
-expose young readers to longer chapter books
-show children how a bibliography works
-talk about point of view
-start a lesson that is structured around each child's bibliography
-compare presidents of today and years ago
This biography of President Obama falls into the first category. Overall, I was impressed with this biographical offering. The book follows Obama from his birth to his re-election in 2012, focusing more on his years before the presidency. Perhaps avoiding the political realities (including controversies) is a good move for a book geared for children, but I thought just a tiny more information about that aspect would be beneficial.
Along the way, the book covers a fair amount of detail and provides pull-out contextual pieces where needed. For instance, the book does not simply mention that Obama spent some of his childhood in Indonesia; it goes on to have a one-page overview of where Indonesia is, what its climate is like, how many people live there, etc. These pull-outs are great for making sure children really understand what they are reading, instead of skimming over some factoid and forgetting it soon after because it has no connection to anything they already know.
The book is broken down into short chapters, which makes for easy places to take a break. However, it is a short and quick enough read that advanced readers could probably finish it in one or two sittings. Back matter includes a bibliography (with books for a child audience starred) and timelines of Obama's life and the world at large. The latter one is a random mish-mosh of hugely important events (e.g., the Iraq War) and really rather insignificant ones (e.g., the 50th anniversary of the Barbie doll). Even though some of the choices were bizarre, I do like the world timeline for providing even more context to this biography.
The illustrations included in the book are so bad as to be almost useless. They break up the text, but they are so loosely sketched that it's often difficult to see what's going on in them. There were also a few details here and there where I thought the book missed the mark. For instance, in describing Obama's campaign and presidency, there is only one brief mention of his and McCain's "running mates." In other words, Vice President Joe Biden is never referred to by name once. I think a sentence or two would have been a wise inclusion. In an earlier section, the text makes note of the terrorist attacks on September 11 as being perpetrated by "a Muslim group called Al Qaeda." Al Qaeda is as much a "Muslim group" as the Lord's Resistance Army is a "Christian group." It may seem minor, but that kind of language reinforces negative stereotypes and I can't help but think a young Muslim child reading that would be hurt by it.
On the whole though, this book does its job of teaching kids about Obama's life.