Review Blog

Jan 18 2019

The extraordinary life of Michelle Obama by Sheila Kanani

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Ill. by Sarah Walsh. Penguin Random House, 2019. ISBN: 9780241372739.
(Age: 8+) Michelle La Vaughn Robinson, the descendant of a slave, was raised in a small apartment in Chicago. At the age of forty-four she became the First Lady of the United States. Sheila Kanani's biography explains why being the President's wife was only one of the reasons why Michelle Obama's life has been extraordinary.
The chronological narrative emphasises how Michelle has overcome economic and social challenges with determination and education. She used her position as First Lady to promote healthy eating, and campaigned for improvements in education, housing, and conditions for veterans. While the author emphasises Michelle's self-belief, she also acknowledges her competitive nature, and the difficulties she has faced. These difficulties have included racism, economic inequality, her father's multiple sclerosis, and the demands of balancing motherhood with her legal career and her husband's political ambitions. Kanani has also noted Michelle's gratitude for the encouragement she received from a caring family, and from lecturers who recognised her potential. These insights into the sources of Michelle's insecurities as well as her strength of character increase the book's credibility as a short but well-rounded biography. The author's writing style, choice of vocabulary and provision of definitions in text boxes, demonstrate that she is mindful of the needs of her young audience. A brief overview of the United States system of government is helpful for non-American readers, while monochrome drawings, a timeline and an index facilitate an understanding of the text. A list of sources for quotations helps to reveal the author's research process.
Michelle Obama's life demonstrates how a supposedly ordinary upbringing can foster a desire to achieve extraordinary goals. Readers can learn from Sheila Kanani's biography not only what the former First Lady has achieved, but also how she has used her education and influence to help others.
Elizabeth Bor

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