Sprinkles reviews children’s books about Barack Obama

As the United States is approaching another presidential election, Sprinkles thought that it could be a good idea to review children’s books about a recent president: President Barack Obama. Here Sprinkles shares her candid opinions on five books about him, with the goal of informing parents of young bunnies. Perhaps other young bunnies (and their parents too) will find one or more of these books worth the read to learn from and get inspired by.

Sprinkles writes about Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O'Brien, President Barack Obama by A.D. Largie and Sabrina Pichardo, Barack Obama by Stephen Krensky, Barack Obama by Caroline Crosson Gilpin, and Barack Obama: Out of Many, One by Shana Corey and James Bernardin.
Sprinkles writes about Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O’Brien, President Barack Obama by A.D. Largie and Sabrina Pichardo, Barack Obama by Stephen Krensky, Barack Obama by Caroline Crosson Gilpin, and Barack Obama: Out of Many, One by Shana Corey and James Bernardin.

School-age bunnies often need to find people to write about for school reports. Most of the books I review in this post found their way to the book bunnies household as the younger bunnies were writing reports about their personal heroes, about well-known world leaders, and about past presidents. And occasionally young readers get their paws on books about inspiring people and just read them on their own. The five books I review in this post are all suitable for both kinds of reading goals. If your little one is curious about president Barack Obama, just keep reading to see which of these five books might be the right one for them!

In what follows I organize and present my thoughts in the order of reader level. By that I mean that the youngest bunnies will likely find it easier to read the books I mention first, and the older ones, those that are more independent readers and those that can handle more challenging sentences, might get more details and all around just more out of the books that come up later.

In this photo, Sprinkles organized the books in this review in the order of reader level: President Barack Obama by A.D. Largie and Sabrina Pichardo, Barack Obama by Caroline Crosson Gilpin, Barack Obama: Out of Many, One by Shana Corey and James Bernardin, Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O'Brien, and Barack Obama by Stephen Krensky.
In this photo, Sprinkles organized the books in this review in the order of reader level: President Barack Obama by A.D. Largie and Sabrina Pichardo, Barack Obama by Caroline Crosson Gilpin, Barack Obama: Out of Many, One by Shana Corey and James Bernardin, Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O’Brien, and Barack Obama by Stephen Krensky.

The first book I will describe for this review is President Barack Obama, written by A. D. Largie and illustrated by Sabrina Pichardo. A slim and mid-size paperback, this book is aimed at younger readers. It can be read out loud, as there is some basic rhyme built into the text on each page. I wished that some of this rhyming was made more visible by formatting of the text or by punctuation. For example the text “Barack Obama proved that you can can (sic) do anything that you believe as long as you hope for the best and focus you can achieve.” would be easier to read if it were written more visibly in two lines and / or with more punctuation:

Barack Obama proved that you can do anything that you believe,
As long as you hope for the best and focus, you can achieve.

Still, a parent used to reading books out loud for their little ones will probably figure out the rhythm soon enough.

There was also a small factual error in the book. Obama was elected to the Illinois state senate in 1996, and to the United States Senate in 2004. But again it is not a big enough deal; a parent can easily correct it while reading.

Despite these two minor issues, I would say that this can be a good book to teach young ones about President Obama. A part of a “Boys Grow Up To Be Heroes” book series, the book emphasizes that Obama was teased for his name when he was young but he persevered; he worked hard on his classes and on building community; and he wanted to bring people of many differences together. And after all that, he was the first black president! This can certainly be an inspiring read.

Next, I will describe Caroline Crosson Gilpin’s Barack Obama, published by National Geographic Kids. Rated Level 2 by the publisher, the book is meant for transitional readers who are getting comfortable reading on their own. The font size is large and the pictures are colorful. After a brief introduction starting on January 20, 2009, the day of the inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama, most of the rest of the book is organized chronologically, and ends the story with a quote from Obama himself:

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

President Barack Obama

The book ends with a seven-question quiz, and a one-page glossary describing terms like “civil rights lawyer”, “community organizer”, and “multiracial”. All in all, this is a good book, telling the story with just enough details, and besides the facts, you also get a little dose of the inspiration that Obama’s presidency offered for many.

Barack Obama: Out of Many, One, written by Shana Corey and illustrated by James Bernardin, is also aimed toward the same level of readers, I believe. The book’s publisher Random House ranks it “Step 3: Reading on Your Own” and this is still written for the young reader, who is not yet quite ready for the chapter book. President Obama’s story is told in simple and clear language, from the beginning up to the time of writing of the book, during Obama’s second term. We start with:

We all have stories–each and every one of us. This is one of those stories. It is the story of a skinny little boy with a funny name and how he became part of America’s history.

and end along similar lines:

But the story is not complete. In fact it’s just started. Where does your story fit in the American story? You could help your neighbor or your school. You could even grow up to be president! Anything is possible–what happens next is up to you!

The illustrations are appealingly hand-drawn, and are peppered with actual photographic images. My favorite was the last one, right under the words I quoted above, where President Obama is looking at some school kids through a ginormous magnifying glass. And luckily due to copyright laws that say “a work of the U.S. federal government” will be on public domain, I can insert it right here:

United States President Barack Obama visits a pre-kindergarten classroom at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Georgia on 14 February 2013. Source Wikimedia via White House, accessed at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barack_Obama_through_a_magnifying_glass.jpg on September 19, 2020.

Next I will share my thoughts on Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O’Brien. This book is clearly directed towards readers who are comfortable with chapter books, as it is one, and at over one hundred pages, it is actually quite an informative read. Its twelve chapters tell a chronological story, with a great many details, including a description of the Democratic nomination process and the competition between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton at the time before the 2008 presidential elections. The author seems to trust that her reader can handle both details and large-picture connections; I always appreciate authors who respect their readers! The book ends with two timelines, one for Obama’s life and the other noting some world events relevant to the narrative of the book.

I believe that this would make an excellent choice for the young reader who is curious to learn about President Obama. Illustrated in simple black and white sketches by John O’Brien, the book tells the story of one of the most inspiring political figures of our times, and situates his story within the wider American context.

The last book I will describe in this review is Stephen Krensky’s Barack Obama. This book also targets a similar audience but perhaps expects a little bit more from the reader. The font size is much smaller, the sentences are a little bit more complex, and the book overall has more the flavor of a historical biography than that of a children’s book. This is not particularly a disadvantage, however, and should definitely not deter any young reader wishing to learn more about the first black president of the United States. The details and the historical conextualization that were strengths for the previous book are also a strength for this one, and the photographic images add a lot to the book’s appeal.

The longest of the books reviewed in this blog post, at 125 pages, Krensky’s Barack Obama is a good text for those young bunnies writing reports or essays about the president, and it can be a good resource for learning more about his life and accomplishments. (Among other things, it contains a neat timeline and several references for further reading and study.) However, it does end on the inauguration day of 2009, and we do not learn much about his accomplishments as the forty-fourth president of the United States. Still, I would recommend it for those bunnies looking to learn more.

Sprinkles thinks that if you or your little ones want to learn about President Barack Obama, there are a lot of great resources out there!
Sprinkles thinks that if you or your little ones want to learn about President Barack Obama, there are a lot of great resources out there!

But perhaps those same young bunnies are up to learn even more about this man? Then I’d urge them and their parents to consider diving into one of Obama’s own books. Many parents will likely think Obama’s 2006 book The Audacity of Hope might be too political (or politically motivated) for their young ones, but his first book, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, written in 1995, tells this man’s tale up to that time in lyrical but not overly dramatic language. This is a beautiful coming-of-age story, and it is perhaps uniquely American. Obama tries in it to open up, understand (for himself–and to our benefit), and come to terms with his own multicultural multiracial heritage. It can be a challenging read for preteens, but for tweens and teenagers, it is bound to be inspiring. And I’d say, it can be especially so, knowing that this young man narrating his own story would become the forty-fourth president of the United States in a little less than fifteen years from the end of the book.

After spending all this time reading about books about president Barack Obama written for younger audiences, Sprinkles proposes that you also consider Obama's own book Dreams From My Father as a possible next step.
After spending all this time reading about books about president Barack Obama written for younger audiences, Sprinkles proposes that you also consider Obama’s own book Dreams From My Father as a possible next step.

Caramel reviews How Things Work by T. J. Resler

Caramel loves reading books about real things, and he especially loves learning about how things work. Today’s book, from National Geographic Kids, is just up his alley: How Things Work by T. J. Resler. As usual Sprinkles is asking questions and taking notes.

Caramel reviews How Things Work by T. J. Resler.
Caramel reviews How Things Work by T. J. Resler.

Sprinkles: So Caramel you got your nose into another big book about real things!

Caramel: Yes, exactly.

S: Tell me what this book is about.

C: It’s about how things work, as you can tell by the cover.

S: Yes. What kinds of things though?

C: Things like hoverbikes and hoverboards. Tablets, bionic arms, thermoses, and invisibility cloaks! Tractor beams…

S: Wait, invisibility cloaks? Tractor beams? Are those things real?

C: No, they are just theoretical. And they are not really invisibility cloaks but cloaking devices.

S: Hmm, so the book is about inventions, both real and fantastical, right?

C: Yes. They are really cool.

S: And I thought the chapter titles were quite fun. Can you tell us some of them?

C: There is one called “Beaming Up”. And another called “Home Where The Fridge Is”. There is “School of Cool”, and “Extreme Fun”, and some others.

S: Which is your favorite thing that you read about in this book?

C: My favorite is in the chapter called “Caught in the Tractor!” There is a picture of an alien ship in a section called “Think Big”.

Caramel is reading "Caught in the tractor!" in How Things Work by T. J. Resler.
Caramel is reading “Caught in the tractor!” in How Things Work by T. J. Resler.

S: Is that a real alien ship? I did not know we had alien visitors!

C: No it’s just a picture. An artist’s imagination.

S: Hmm, so what do you like about this particular page?

C: The picture of the alien ship is cool. But the section is about tractor beams, something we see a lot in Star Trek. Apparently a gigawatt in laser energy would totally vaporize a baseball. That’s basically a phaser, like in Star Trek.

S: Okay, how is that related to tractor beams?

C: It would be able to move the thing, but then it would also totally vaporize it too.

S: So there is a lot in this book about Star Trek science?

C: Not exactly, but I like Star Trek so I am telling you things about Star Trek in the book. There are also a lot of real things.

S: Like what?

C: Like fridges, space ships, microwave ovens, thermoses, and photocopy machines. And we learn about Elon Musk. He is an engineer and apparently he read a whole encyclopedia when he was a child.

S: Hmm, do you ever read an encyclopedia Caramel?

C: No, not really.

S: Well, we do often check out Wikipedia, and that is kind of like an encyclopedia, right?

C: I guess so. But I like reading real books with pictures, and learning about how things work.

S: And this book has a lot of pictures. Every one of its two hundred pages has at least one picture and there are pages which have only pictures. So it is a great book to read if you like to see what you are reading about.

C: Yes, there is a full-page picture of a dog drinking from the toilet bowl. The dog says “hmm, that’s the stuff!”

S: So the book is also quite funny, it sounds like.

C: Well kind of, but I like it more for the facts.

S: Okay, so tell me three words or phrases to describe this book.

C: Full of facts, colorful pictures, useful.

S: Great! This is a good place to wrap up this review. What do you want to tell our readers Caramel?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny adventures!

Caramel loved reading and looking at the pictures in How Things Work by T. J. Resler.
Caramel loved reading and looking at the pictures in How Things Work by T. J. Resler.

Caramel reviews The Magnificent Book of Ocean Creatures by Val Walerczuk and Tom Jackson

A few weeks ago Caramel reviewed a beautiful nonfiction book titled The Magnificent Book of Animals, illustrated by Val Walerczuk and written by Tom Jackson. Today he decided to talk about a similar book: The Magnificent Book of Ocean Creatures, once again illustrated by Val Walerczuk and written by Tom Jackson. As usual Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews The Magnificent Book of Ocean Creatures by Val Walerczuk and Tom Jackson.
Caramel reviews The Magnificent Book of Ocean Creatures by Val Walerczuk and Tom Jackson.

Sprinkles: I have been seeing you read and reread this book for the last few weeks. What is it about?

Caramel: It’s about ocean animals. Well, there is also corals…

S: Are corals animals?

C: They’re made of polyps which are little animals. Tiny, probably microscopic.

S: Hmm, let’s see. Wikipedia tells us that corals are made up of polyps as you said. And polyps are tiny invertebrates but nowhere do I see how big they are. So I guess I will take your word for it for now…

C: Oh, wait, I want to tell you this fact: Polyps are relatives of jellyfish! Did you know that?

S: No!

C: And they have “tentacles for sifting food from water”.

S: That is interesting Caramel! I can see why you find this book fascinating! It is full of interesting facts.

C: Yep. Let me tell you a few facts about my favorite ocean creature in this book.

S: Oh, I am curious. What is it about?

C: Here, I found it: Flying fish!

Flying fish do not actually fly. They leap out of the water at high speeds and then glide on their winglike fins. The fish glide to escape larger predators that are attacking them underwater.

Caramel is reading his favorite pages (about flying fish) in The Magnificent Book of Ocean Creatures by Val Walerczuk and Tom Jackson.
Caramel is reading his favorite pages (about flying fish) in The Magnificent Book of Ocean Creatures by Val Walerczuk and Tom Jackson.

S: This is all very interesting!

C: There’s more!

S: But we should talk more about the book more generally. So tell me more about the book. What creatures are described in it?

C: I’ll tell you all of the animals in this book.

S: So you’ll read me the table of contents basically?

C: Yes.

S: That’s alright. Go ahead.

C: Sea otter, walrus, hooded seal, blue whale, humpback whale, narwhal, orca (killer whale), bottlenose dolphin, manatee, yellowfin tuna, marine iguana, whale shark, great white shark, ocean sunfish, manta ray, oarfish, humpback anglerfish, sea horse, queen parrotfish, clownfish, green sea turtle, lionfish, sailfish, flying fish, tufted puffin, emperor penguin, pelican, giant clam, lobster, giant Pacific octopus, giant squid, insulamon freshwater crab, sea slug, sea star, lion’s mane jellyfish, and coral.

S: Wow! That is a lot of creatures. And just like in the other Magnificient Book you reviewed, each of these animals gets two pages to itself, right?

C: Yes. And they also have amazing drawings! They are actually hand-drawn! It’s amazing!

S: I know! Some people are really good at drawing and illustrating, right?

C: They’re so good! They’re out of this world! At first I actually thought they were photos, but no, they are hand-drawn.

S: Yes, I am sure the illustrator worked really hard on them. And she must have worked really hard to get this good!

C: This reminds me of a quote, I do not know who it is from: “We do not do it because it is easy. We do it because it is hard.”

S: Oh, that is President John F. Kennedy’s speech about going to the moon. Here is the full transcript. The part you are remembering is:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. 

Isn’t it an inspiring speech? And you are right in remembering it just now. Good illustrators work hard at their craft, and even if they probably find drawing easier than you and me, drawing that well needs a lot of hard work.

C: I guess all that hard work be tiring.

S: Probably. But in the end they have a truly magnificent book!

C: Yes!

S: Okay, Caramel. Let us wrap this up. Do you want to rate it again, by finding three words to describe this book?

C: Yes. Here they are: Awesome, amazing, beautiful.

S: Well, these basically say the same thing, but I know what you mean. The book is beautiful. Alright, here are my three words: “colorful”, “big”, because it is a pretty big book, and “interesting”, because there are a lot of interesting facts in this book that I did not know about.

C: I agree!

S: Ok, and now you tell everyone:

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel enjoyed reading The Magnificent Book of Ocean Creatures by Val Walerczuk and Tom Jackson, and is looking forward to many more reads where he will study once again the many amazing creatures of the world's oceans.
Caramel enjoyed reading The Magnificent Book of Ocean Creatures by Val Walerczuk and Tom Jackson, and is looking forward to many more reads where he will study once again the many amazing creatures of the world’s oceans.

Caramel reviews The Magnificent Book of Animals by Val Walerczuk and Tom Jackson

Today, as he has done many times before, Caramel wanted to talk about a book about facts, and chose a recent favorite: The Magnificent Book of Animals, illustrated by Val Walerczuk and written by Tom Jackson. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews The Magnificent Book of Animals, illustrated by Val Walerczuk and written by Tom Jackson.
Caramel reviews The Magnificent Book of Animals, illustrated by Val Walerczuk and written by Tom Jackson.

Sprinkles: Okay Caramel, let us start talking about this book. What do you want to tell us about it?

Caramel: This is one big book for a little bunny like me.

S: That is true! Here is a picture of you standing next to the book so readers can see how big it is!

Caramel is showing us how big The Magnificent Book of Animals, illustrated by Val Walerczuk and written by Tom Jackson, is.
Caramel is showing us how big The Magnificent Book of Animals, illustrated by Val Walerczuk and written by Tom Jackson, is.

C: Yes, see how small I am next to the book!

S: Yes, I can see that. But I know you like this book; you have been almost inseparable from it for a while now.

C: Yes, I like looking at the book, and the pictures, and reading all the facts about all the animals.

S: So what animals are there in this book?

C: I’m going to tell you all of them. African elephant, red giant panda, reindeer, gray wolf, mandrill, flying fox, snow leopard, Przewalski’s horse, red kangaroo, lion ,polar bear, dromedary, orangutan, okapi, grizzly bear, chimpanzee, arctic fox, tapir, tiger, warthog, beaver, giraffe, koala, zebra, sloth, bison, hippopotamus, gorilla, white rhinoceros, wolverine, ring-tailed lemur, ibex, leopard, duck-billed platypus, striped hyena and bush baby.

S: That is a lot of animals. I don’t think I know all these animals. For example, I had never heard of a mandrill before…

C: It’s a type of monkey.

S: I also did not know about ibex, dromedary, and okapi. I also did not know about Przewalski’s horse.

C: The Przewalski’s horse is a type of horse. It’s the oldest breed. And the okapi is a big animal that lives in Central Africa. It has a long tongue, so long that it can lick its own eyes and ears. Kind of disgusting really!

S: Well, staying clean is important. So what about the dromedary and the ibex?

C: The dromedaries are some type of camel. And the ibex is a goat-like animal that lives on mountains. But the arctic fox is one of my favorites. Here is me looking at the page for the arctic fox.

Caramel is checking out the arctic fox in The Magnificent Book of Animals, illustrated by Val Walerczuk and written by Tom Jackson.
Caramel is checking out the arctic fox in The Magnificent Book of Animals, illustrated by Val Walerczuk and written by Tom Jackson.

S: Hmm, I’m not sure a bunny would be too safe near a fox.

C: I think you might be right. I also like the African elephant. Here is me looking at the page for the African elephant.

Caramel is reading more about the African elephant in The Magnificent Book of Animals, illustrated by Val Walerczuk and written by Tom Jackson.
Caramel is reading more about the African elephant in The Magnificent Book of Animals, illustrated by Val Walerczuk and written by Tom Jackson.

S: So each of the animals has a two-page spread where there is a really realistic drawing of the animal and a few interesting facts about it.

C: I don’t know how the person drew the pictures! It seems impossible.

S: What do you mean?

C: They’re so incredibly realistic! The eyes seem to be actually reflecting light, and they are looking at me when I am looking at them!

S: Yes, you are right Caramel, I agree the pictures really make this book magnificent. And the facts are all quite interesting, right?

C: Yes. For example I learned from this book that the arctic fox’s coat changes color between white and grayish brown so it can blend in its environment.

S: That is neat! And I can now see why you have not gotten bored of this book yet, even though you have been reading it over and over again so many times.

C: Yes, and I want to read it ten hundred thousand more times. So let’s end this review.

S: Okay. So what do we say?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel enjoys reading and looking at the truly magnificent illustrations in The Magnificent Book of Animals, illustrated by Val Walerczuk and written by Tom Jackson.
Caramel enjoys reading and looking at the truly magnificent illustrations in The Magnificent Book of Animals, illustrated by Val Walerczuk and written by Tom Jackson.