Children's Literature in Education

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 273–290 | Cite as

(Re)Storying Obama: An Examination of Recently Published Informational Texts

  • Laura A. May
  • Teri Holbrook
  • Laura E. Meyers
Original Paper


American publishers have published numerous children’s books about Barack Obama over the past several years; most take the form of informational biographies. This article reports on a research project aimed at how these books incorporate sociohistorical narratives, particularly those related to the civil rights movement. Though the features of the books might cause the reader to presume political neutrality, the books link readers to distinct Discourses (Gee, 1996), suggesting particular ideologies. In this article, we identified the following differences: (1) specific happenings from Obama’s life were included in some texts while omitted in others; (2) when the events were included, how they were framed differed; and (3) the narrative constructions of the events varied. We use the differences amongst these texts to argue for the importance of critical literacy in elementary classrooms.


Informational texts Biography Critical discourse analysis Obama 


  1. Agger, B. (1989). Fast Capitalism: A Critical Theory of Significance. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  2. Apple, M.W., & Christian-Smith, L.K. (1991). The Politics of the Textbook. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Baker, D.F. (2006). What We Found on Our Journey Through Fantasy Land. Childrens’ Literature in Education, 37, 237–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Banks, C.A.M. (1996). Intellectual Leadership and African American Challenges to Meta-Narratives. In J.A. Banks (Ed.), Multicultural Education, Transformative Knowledge, and Action: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (pp. 46–63). New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  5. Banks, J.A. (2001). Citizenship Education and Diversity: Implications for Teacher Education. Journal of Teacher Education, 52(5), 5–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bruner, J. (1987/2004). Life as Narrative. Social Research, 71(3), 691–710.Google Scholar
  7. Campbell, J. (1968). The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Clandinin, D.J., & Connelly, F.M. (1999). Storying and Restorying Ourselves: Narrative and Reflection. In A. Chen & J. Van Maanen (Eds.), The Reflective Spin: Case Studies of Teachers in Higher Education Transforming Action. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  9. Dozier, C., Johnston, P., & Rogers, R. (2006). Critical Literacy, Critical Teaching: Tools for Preparing Responsive Teachers. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  10. Duke, N., & Tower, C. (2004). Nonfiction Texts for Young Readers. In J.V. Hoffman & D.L. Schallert (Eds.), The Texts in Elementary Classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  11. Fox, D.L., & Short, K.G. (Eds.). (2003). Stories Matter: The Complexity of Cultural Authenticity in Children’s Literature. Urbana, IL: NCTE.Google Scholar
  12. Gee, J.P. (1996). Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses (2nd ed.). New York: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  13. Gee, J.P. (2000). New People in New Worlds: Networks, the New Capitalism and Schools. In B. Cope & M. Kalantzis (Eds.), Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures (pp. 43–68). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Graves, D., & Kittle, P. (2005). Inside Writing: How to Teach the Details of the Craft. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  15. Henderson, D.L. (2005). Authenticity and Accuracy: The Continuing Debate. In D.L. Henderson & J.P. May (Eds.), Exploring Culturally Diverse Literature for Children and Adolescents: Learning to Listen in New Ways (pp. 266–276). Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar
  16. Jenkins, E. (2002). Adult Agendas in Publishing South African Folktales for Children. Children’s Literature in Education, 33(4), 269–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kohl, H. (1995). Should We Burn Babar: Questioning Power in Children’s Literature. In Should We Burn Babar?: Essays on Children’s Literature and the Power of Stories (pp. 3–29). New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  18. Kohl, H. (1995). The Story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott Revisited. In Should We Burn Babar?: Essays on Children’s Literature and the Power of Stories (pp. 30–56). New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  19. Landorf, H., & Lowenstein, E. (2004). The Rosa Parks “Myth”: A Third Grade Historical Investigation. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 16(5), 5–9.Google Scholar
  20. Lea, S.G. (2006). Seeing Beyond Sameness: Using The Giver to Challenge Colorblind Ideology. Children’s Literature in Education, 37(1), 51–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Luke, C., DeCastell, S., & Luke, A. (1989). Beyond Criticism: The Authority of the School Textbook. In S. DeCastell, A. Luke, & C. Luke (Eds.), Language, Authority, and Criticism: Readings on the School Textbook (pp. 245–260). New York: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  22. McGinley, W., & Kamberelis, G. (1996). Maniac Magee and Ragtime Turnpie: Children Negotiating Self and World Through Reading and Writing. Research in the Teaching of English, 30(1), 75–113.Google Scholar
  23. McNair, J.C. (2008). The Representation of Authors and Illustrators of Color in School-Based Book Clubs. Language Arts, 85(3), 193–201.Google Scholar
  24. Meyers, L.E., Holbrook, T., & May, L.A. (2009). Beyond heroes and role models: Using biographies to develop young change agents. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 21(3), 10–14.Google Scholar
  25. Obama, B. (2004). Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. New York: Crown Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  26. Obama, B. (2006). The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. New York: Crown Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  27. Taxel, J. (1981). The Outsiders of the American Revolution: The Selective Tradition in Children’s Fiction. Interchange, 12(2–3), 206–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Taxel, J. (1997). Multicultural Literature and the Politics of Reaction. Teachers College Record, 98(3), 417–448.Google Scholar
  29. Taxel, J. (2002). Children’s Literature at the Turn of the Century: Toward a Political Economy of the Publishing Industry. Research in the Teaching of English, 37, 145–197.Google Scholar
  30. Tolson, N.D. (2005). The Black Aesthetic Within Black Children’s Literature. In D.L. Henderson & J.P. May (Eds.), Exploring Culturally Diverse Literature for Children and Adolescents: Learning to Listen in New Ways (pp. 65–78). Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar
  31. Travis, M. (2007). Mixed Messages: The Problem of Class in Mary Norton’s Borrowers Series. Children’s Literature in Education, 38, 187–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Urban, G. (2001). Metaculture: How Culture Moves Through the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  33. Wertsch, J. (2002). Voices of Collective Remembering. Cambridge: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Williamson, J.A. (2006). A Tale of Two Movements: The Power and Consequences of Misremembering Brown. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, 105(2), 36–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wise, T. (2009). Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama. San Francisco: City Lights Books.Google Scholar
  36. Yokota, J., & Bates, A. (2005). Asian American Literature: Voices and Images of Authenticity. In D.L. Henderson & J.P. May (Eds.), Exploring Culturally Diverse Literature for Children and Adolescents: Learning to Listen in New Ways (pp. 323–335). Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar

Children’s Literature

  1. Grimes, N. (2008). Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  2. Nave, J. (2008). Obama’s Pajamas. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse (Illustrated by Barry Lane).Google Scholar
  3. Winter, J. (2008). Barack. New York: HarperCollins (Illustrated by AG Ford).Google Scholar
  4. Brill, M.T. (2006). Barack Obama: Working to Make a Difference (Gateway Biographies). Minneapolis: Millbrook Press.Google Scholar
  5. Carlton, B., & Gentiles, A. (2008). Barack Obama: An American Story. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.Google Scholar
  6. DeMedeiros, M. (2008). Barack Obama (Remarkable People). New York: Weigl Publishers Inc.Google Scholar
  7. Devaney, S., & Devaney, M. (2006). Barack Obama (People in the News). Detroit: Lucent Books.Google Scholar
  8. Edwards, R. (2007). Barack Obama: An American Story. New York: Grosset & Dunlap.Google Scholar
  9. Feinstein, S. (2008). Barack Obama (African-American Heroes). Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  10. Gibson, K.B. (2009). The Obama View: The Historic Fight for the 2008 Democratic Nomination (Monumental Milestones: Great Events of Modern Times). Hockessin, DE: Mitchell Lane Publishers.Google Scholar
  11. Gormley, B. (2008). Barack Obama: Our 44th President. New York: Aladdin.Google Scholar
  12. Mendell, D. (2008). Obama: A Promise of Change: An Adaptation for Young Readers of S. Thomsen’s. Obama: From promise to power. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  13. Robinson, T. (2009). Barack Obama-44th President (Essential Lives Set 3). Edina, MN: ABDO Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  14. Schuman, M.A. (2008). Barack Obama: “We are One People” (African-American Biography Library). Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  15. Thomas, G. (2008). Yes We Can: A Biography of President Barack Obama. New York: Fiewel and Friends.Google Scholar
  16. Wagner, H. L. (2008). Barack Obama (Black Americans of Achievement: Legacy Edition). New York: Infobase Publishing.Google Scholar
  17. Wheeler, J.C. (2009). Barack Obama (The United States Presidents). Edina, MN: ABDO Publishing Company.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura A. May
    • 1
  • Teri Holbrook
    • 1
  • Laura E. Meyers
    • 1
  1. 1.Georgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations