Books for youth

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‘Of Thee I Sing’

As you grow up, your parents and grandparents have many good ideas for you.

Of-Thee-I-Sing

First of all, they want you to remember that you’re a wonderful kid and that they’re happy to see you when you walk into a room. They hope you know that they’re really proud of you and that you’re loved very much.

But as you’ll see in the new book “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters” by Barack Obama, illustrated by Loren Long, they also have lots of bigger ideas for you, too.

Are you a creative kid? Then your parents and grandparents want you to use your talents wisely, like Georgia O’Keeffe. She was an artist who moved to the desert so she could paint pictures of small, simple things.

If you’re smart—and you know you are—your parents want you to be like Albert Einstein, who changed the world with his ideas about energy and light.

When you’re brave, they want you to remember Jackie Robinson, who opened doors and showed everyone that dreams really can happen. Billie Holiday did that, too, only she did it with songs of “sadness and joy.”

Do you know how to honor others’ sacrifices? Then your grandparents want you to be like a woman named Maya Lin, who created the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial so that we all can remember soldiers in war. She created the Civil Rights Memorial, too, so we can recognize those who gave their lives for equality—like Martin Luther King Jr., who never gave up. The courage to never give up is another idea your grandparents have for you.

Your parents and grandparents want you to grow up to be someone great, and that’s going to be easy because all these people and their unique talents are already a part of you. It’s true, because you are the future.

While “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters” simply oozes with encouragement; and while author and President Barack Obama has written a love letter not only to Malia and Sasha, but to all children; and while I really enjoyed this book, only part of my enjoyment was for the words it contains.

Yes, Obama’s story is one that children will want to hear repeatedly, but the appeal for me (and, I suspect, anyone under age 5) is the artwork. Award-winning illustrator Loren Long paints life into Obama’s words, and though parents will cherish the text, kids will love “reading” the pictures.

Of course you have dreams for your kids. “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters” will reveal a few. For you and your child, having this book on your shelf is a good idea.

(“Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters” by Barack Obama, illustrated by Loren Long, $17.99, 40 pages)

“Busing Brewster”

For the last few days of school, you could hardly sit still. All you could think about was the fun you’d have this summer, playing at the park and doing things with your friends. Your brain didn’t want anything to do with school. It only wanted to think about the summer months ahead and having a good time.

All summer long, Brewster looked forward to first grade and Franklin School. But in the new book “Busing Brewster” by Richard Michelson, pictures by R.G. Roth, he’s in for a big fall surprise.

Franklin was where Brewster would be going in the fall, and he simply couldn’t wait. He hoped he didn’t have Miss Evelyn for a teacher; his brother, Bryan said she was really mean and she yelled all the time.

But one afternoon, when the boys get home, Mama was on the stoop, waving a letter that said Brewster and Bryan would be going to Central in the fall. Bryan wasn’t happy about that at all!

“Central’s the White school,” he said. “Ain’t no Negroes at Central.”

Mama said it was going to be okay. Central had rooms for art and music, and the roof didn’t leak. It even had a library and a swimming pool! Going to Central, Mama thought, maybe Brewster could be president someday. Brewster liked that.

Based loosely on several true-life events, “Busing Brewster” is a cute story that adults—particularly those of a Certain Age—will like. For children, though, I thought something was missing.

“Busing Brewster” is about the then-controversial issues of busing and school integration in the 1970s, but you wouldn’t know that until well into the story because neither narrative nor illustrations offer much of a clue. Grown-ups will understand the story’s meaning by the time they’re done reading, but without a lot of preamble or explanation, this book won’t make much sense to kids who probably don’t find it unusual to attend school with children of other races.

While I’ll admit that this is an important book, it’s probably not going to be your kids’ favorite. Still, if you give 4- to-7-year-olds a little explanation, “Busing Brewster” will get them to sit still for at least a little while.

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