>When Mothertalk offered the opportunity to read and review the young reader’s edition of Obama: The Historic Journey produced by The New York Times, I jumped at the chance. To help convince the people who choose the reviewers, I reminded them that 1. I teach fourth grade. 2. My students were very interested in the campaign and the election.
Obama: the Historic Journey is illustrated with vivid and varied photos, most taken by New York Times photographers. The text is by Jill Abramson, who collaborated with colleagues, browsed the NYT archives, and included her own knowledge of the lengthy presidential campaign. Abramson opens the book with election night and ends with the inauguration. The chapters between chronicle young Barack’s life and the many unique circumstances and people that contributed to make him the amazing man he is today.
The narrative is what we teachers call “ordinary language used well.” It’s readable: my school’s reading specialist leveled it at late third grade reading level. The style is direct and factual, yet captures the excitement of the campaign and the passion of the people involved in Obama’s long journey to the White House. Students looking for detail will find it; students looking for familiar events such as the election night speech at Chicago’s Grant Park will find those as well. Readers searching for an understanding of how voters came to elect the first African-American president of the U.S.A. will find it. Reading as a teacher and reviewer, I found myself drawn into the dramatic story, even though I knew it well, having followed it as events unfolded in real life.
All in all, Obama: the Historic Journey (young reader’s edition) is a wonderful book. It’s big (about 9 by 12 inches), hardcover, and sturdy enough to withstand the fingers of many eager readers. The text is simple and straightforward enough that an average fourth grader can read it, and detailed enough that older readers will be taken in by the story itself. The photos include the predictable (Obama being sworn in, family at his side) and the uniquely fascinating (toddler Barack playing in the Hawaiian surf). All are clear and excellent quality, as I would expect from the NYT.
I predict I will have a hard time keeping this book on the shelf in my classroom. Students will be lining up to grab it, eager to read the details of this Historic Journey. Maybe our library media specialist will order a copy; this one is for me and my class. I’m not giving it up.