Of Thee I Sing – A Letter to My Daughters

I was not expecting to like Barack Obama’s children’s book with Loren Long, but I did.

Of Thee I Sing is a clear wish for using information from the past to shape the future – a history lesson that includes women and men from all backgrounds, and contributions that range from science to social work.

When the book is open, the illustrations on the left depict the famous Americans as children, facing the page of the adult in the action of his or her expertise, e.g., Jackie Robinson playing baseball or Georgia O’Keefe painting a flower.  As the book continues, the left page becomes cumulative, until everyone is there –  America “made up of people of every kind.”

Not only a gift to his daughters but also a contribution to all children, Obama’s Of Thee I Sing offers a creative and short lecture on American history.

With Paul Revere’s famous ride making the airwaves lately,  it’s too bad he wasn’t included in the book.  But, Jean Fritz had it covered in her book – And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Today is Longfellow’s birthday and I’ll bet you can quote at least one of his 174 poems…

  • I shot an arrow into the air, It fell to earth, I know not where
  • Ships that pass in the night and speak to each other in passing
  • Under a spreading chestnut-tree, The village smithy stands
  • Listen my children and you shall hear, Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…One if by land, and two if by sea…

He was friend to Hawthorne, Dickens, and Oscar Wilde, among others.  Ralph Waldo Emerson called Longfellow ” a sweet and beautiful soul.”  And in Drood, Dan Simmons refers to Longfellow’s work in translating Dante’s Inferno.

Charles Calhoun wrote a biography, Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life, that includes Longfellow’s “tragic romantic life–his first wife dies tragically early, after a miscarriage, and his second wife, Fannie Appleton, dies after accidentally setting herself on fire.”  And Meghan Fitzmaurice wrote a young adult summary of his life for The Library of American Thinkers series – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: American Poet, Linguist, and Educator.  The latter gives all the essential facts, with some great pictures, especially of the young beardless Longfellow.  I am more familiar, as everyone else, with his portrait as the elder with a long white beard.

A teacher, a college professor, a family man, a New Englander from Maine- but most of all, a lover of books, who learned to read at three years old.  My favorite Longfellow quote…

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,

And all the sweet serenity of books. “