In the run up to publication of her autobiography, Becoming, Michelle Obama has been speaking about her and her family's love of books. Read on to find out more about some of the children's books she loves, and why we should be reading and encouraging kids to read these books.
'We are readers, the Obamas, and we started reading to the girls when they were babies. As a little kid I loved to read aloud, I was one of those kids who would set up the stuffed animals and the Barbies and read to them, and show them the pictures... I love the act of reading aloud, so when I had kids, they just became like my real babies I could read to.'
Michelle Obama speaking at the American Library Association conference in June 2018.
The chosen books:
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Puffin)
One night Max puts on his wolf suit and makes mischief of one kind and another, so his mother calls him 'Wild Thing' and sends him to bed without his supper. That night a forest begins to grow in Max's room and an ocean rushes by with a boat to take Max to the place where the wild things are. This classic adventure story about a boy named Max and his night time journey is a favourite of all the Obamas. President Obama has even said, 'My wife still thinks that I'm Max...that I'm getting into mischief all the time.' Michelle and the couple's two young daughters, Sasha and Malia, looked on as President Obama read this story to kids at a White House Easter Egg Roll in 2016.
Emily Lunn, editor at Puffin Books says:
'Where The Wild Things Are is a timeless masterpiece, and one of the most beloved classic picture books. This brilliant book contains a large dose of mischief, humour and magic, and continues to enchant readers across the world. With spellbinding illustrations and a gripping, playful story, this is an enormously fun and uplifting tale to share with all wild young readers.'
Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (Two Hoots/Pan Macmillan)
When asked her favourite book on Take Your Child to Work Day in 2011, the former First Lady listed Goodnight Moon as one of the many kids books she enjoys.
The book's UK editor Suzanne Carnell at Pan Macmillan says:
'Published over 70 years ago, Good Night Moon was one of the first colour-printed books for children, and its simple, child-friendly text and domestic setting were ground breaking at a time when most children's books were fantastical fairy tales or nursery rhymes. Margaret Wise Brown's rhythmic, soothing words have a kind of hypnotic magic to them, making Goodnight Moon the perfect book to lull a child to sleep. There's magic, too, in the illustrations from artist Clement Hurd, whose unique choice of colours is so instantly recognisable. We recently undertook a project of restoring our editions to their original glory, meaning the artwork now has just the same vibrancy and warmth as when the book originally hit the shelves in 1942. There is a reason Goodnight Moon is one of the world's best-loved picture books: once you read it, you won't forget it.'
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. (Puffin)
Michelle read this book to a rapt audience at a community health organization in Washington, D.C. in 2009. One news report said she seemed to know the words to this animal story by heart, meowing and barking along.
Editor at Puffin Books, Olivia Edwards says of the book:
'With its rhythmic, repetitive language and its brightly coloured artwork Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? has helped millions of children all over the world learn about colours and animals. Developed by educationalist Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle, creator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, this truly is a timeless classic. Listen to the simple, rhythmic story and meet a new brightly coloured animal on each page. Preschoolers will love reading this story over and over again and learning the names of each animal and colour.'
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst (Simon & Schuster UK)
Michelle Obama read this perennially popular tale of Alexander's worst day to a group of Washington D.C, elementary kids as First Lady in 2009, and followed it with a discussion on how to cope with those very bad days.
A funny and endearing story which has delighted readers for more than forty years, the book tells the tale of Alexander, who has to endure gum in his hair, sitting in the middle of the backseat, third-best-friend status, no dessert at lunch and kissing on TV--all in one day! Maybe he'll just move to Australia.
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss (Harper Collins)
Dr. Seuss' classic roller-coast ride of cat-induced chaos is a go-to for many parents and Michelle Obama is no exception. In her talk to US librarians last month, Michelle remarked that: 'I know every word of every Dr Seuss, anything, still by heart.' As First Lady, she once entertained a group of preschool kids with the magical adventure during a visit to military families in North Carolina.
When Sally and her brother are left alone, they think they're in for a dull day - until the Cat in the Hat steps in on the mat, bringing with him mayhem and madness! This is a classic book to introduce every child to the joys of reading.
Olivia by Ian Falconer (Simon & Schuster UK)
Another timeless classic which is a fave of the former First Lady - she read it in 2008 during a visit to the University of South Carolina's Children's Center - Olivia is an absolute gem of a book which will prove a hit with all the family.
Olivia is a delight! A gorgeous little pig who likes to dress-up, sing songs, dance, think, snooze (sometimes) and is even quite good at building sandcastles. Her days are filled with the wonderful minutiae that makes up a small child's life and, at the end of them, when she snuggles up in bed and her mother reads her a story (or three) Olivia the little pig, feels very full of love.
Babar by Jean de Brunhoff (Egmont)
In her ALA speech in June 2018, Michelle Obama referenced Babar as one of the first books she checked out of her local library.
'I remember going into the library in our neighbourhood...that was, sort of, my first major big girl thing I could do, was get my library card and stand counter high watching them put me into the official files, I felt really important. I didn't know what to do with my library card because I didn't have a wallet or a purse. But I felt really special just to have it. And we would go to the library; it was a community space as all of you all know the library for us, for all of you, you see it's a major part of any community.'
Jean de Brunhoff's tales of Babar have charmed readers around the world for 80 years. His stories have followed the king of the elephants as he builds a city, founds a family and even meets Father Christmas. Tested by difficult trials - from snakes to fire to runaway prams - he always comes out on top, with the help of patience, determination and, on one memorable occasion, a flight of winged elephants.
Want to read about the adult books Michelle Obama loves? Take a look at our Reading Groups for Everyone website.