BYU prof illustrating Obama children's book

Published: Sunday, June 28 2009 12:16 a.m. MDT

Robert Barrett never visualized himself

being a children's book illustrator, but now on his 19th and 20th

books, he just might be one.Teaching illustration at BYU for 26 years and also having

illustrated several children's books, including "The Walnut Tree," "The

Other Wise Man," and "Silent Night, Holy Night: The 1914 Christmas

Truce," Barrett's portfolio will soon include "Only in America," a book

about President Barack Obama's life and journey to the White House.

"I voted for him; my whole family voted for him. I guess you could

say it's not a conflict of interest," the illustrator said. "When you

research someone's life, you can't help but build a relationship with

the person."

The book depicts Obama growing up in Indonesia and Hawaii, his time at Harvard and his entrance into the political scene.

The book will contain 25 illustrations, about 10 more than the typical children's book.

"It's a big balancing thing. You make sure you see all the details to make sure nothing falls between the cracks," Barrett said.

Some of the illustrations were based on recognizable photographs;

combining elements from different photographs created other


One illustration in particular, of a young Obama sitting on the

steps in Hawaii, stands out to Barrett. He's figuring out who he is,

Barrett said.

The book seems to be themed around the possibility of the American dream and recognizing personal potential.

Other memorable illustrations in the book include the president and

the first lady's first date, Obama as a young senator and a trip to

visit the troops in Iraq.

When preparing to do the sketches for the book, Barrett spent time studying photographs of the president.

Barrett has a feeling he knows why he was selected to illustrate the

children's book.His online portfolio includes drawings he did of an

African American woman and believes they may have had something to do

with his getting the job.

"You can almost pick what pieces people saw that led to me being picked," he said.

The author and creative director knew he was capable of drawing and illustrating African Americans well, Barrett said.

Barrett said he begins the process of illustrating by carefully

reading the manuscript and coming up with ideas for interesting visual

additions to the text.

He then begins sketching. "I prefer to have a model, however, Obama

hasn't agreed to come pose for me," Barrett joked. The illustrator uses

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