Courtesy Bookworm Sez
Book review: Yes We Can: A biography of Barack Obama, by Garen Thomas
July 28, 2008 —
If you were old enough to vote this coming November, which candidate would you choose?
It’s not such a silly question. Kids know plenty about politics. You probably studied it in school, and why not? The person who gets into office will have a lot to say about your future.
You know about government, so why not learn about the candidates? Start by reading “Yes We Can: A Biography of Barack Obama” by Garen Thomas (c.2008, Feiwel and Friends; $6.99 / $7.99 Canada; 206 pages, includes index). In this new book, you’ll learn all about the soon-to-be-nominated Democratic candidate for President of the United States.
Barack Obama’s father was born and raised in Kenya, and came to America to attend college. Obama’s mother was born in Kansas but moved to Hawaii, where she, too, was attending school. Stanley Ann Dunham fell in love with Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., and they were married. Barack (sometimes called “Barry”) was born in 1961.
While young Obama never really knew his father (when Barry was two years old, Barack Sr. left his family and Ann divorced him shortly after), he knew he had family in Kenya. He also had a step-father from Indonesia, where Barry and his mother lived for a few years and where Obama’s half-sister was born. From Hawaii to Jakarta, back to Hawaii, to California, New York City, and Kenya, Barack Obama spent his childhood and his early adulthood traveling the world.
Way back when he first started school, Obama told his teachers that he wanted to be President some day. He always wanted to make a difference in the world and becoming President was one way to do it.
Once he was grown up, Obama still burned with a desire to make a difference. He took a job in Chicago, where he helped an apartment full of people to find jobs and get their homes fixed. Later, after graduation from Harvard Law School, Obama returned to Chicago and started his new career in politics.
Will he make history? Thomas says he already has: Barack Obama is the first African American who is a serious contender for the office of President.
With the internet and “instant news”, kids are pretty savvy about current events these days. They know this election will affect their future, too, which is why this book is important.
“Yes We Can” is an intelligent, teen-friendly book that not only gives kids an Obama overview, but also gives important insight into Obama’s background, his wrestlings with racial issues, and his drive for change.
What I liked best about this book is that author Garen Thomas lays bare the angst that young Obama had, his unusual male role models, and the fact that he wasn’t always a “good boy”. Obama was an angry young teen once and he overcame it, which may make him even more of a role model for kids today.
Although this book is meant for kids 9-and-up, I think that’s a reach. Teens and young adults, though, will love it – particularly if they’re current-events-minded. For them “Yes We Can” is a can-do.
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