Former White House Photographer Pete Souza took two million images of President Obama between 2009 and 2017. He painstakingly whittled it down to 75 for his children's book, Dream Big Dreams, on sale November 21 and available to pre-order now. While children in middle school will be able to read it independently, it's one of those rare titles you want to sit down and enjoy as as a family. Each photograph, which contains a short caption with behind-the-scences details, will likely spark a conversation with your curious kid. The book will grow with your child—a 5-year-old and a 15-year-old will both take away inspiring messages, but on different levels. Once your family has exhausted the photos in Dream Big Dreams, you can continue with Souza's adult-oriented title, Obama: An Intimate Portrait. Parents caught up with Souza a few days ago for this exclusive interview:
Parents: How is Dream Big Dreams different from Obama: An Intimate Portrait?
Souza: It's quite different in that we made it more relatable to young readers. There are six themed sections emphasizing what I observed as President Obama's tenets of life. There are also many more photographs of him with children in this book.
Parents: What do you hope kids take away from reading Dream Big Dreams?
Souza: I really hope kids come away with a better understanding of President Obama, not just as the President of the United States, but what he was like as a person. I tried to include many photographs of him interacting with other people from all walks of life, which, to me, show what a person is like as a human being.
Parents: What's your favorite image in Dream Big Dreams and why?
Souza: I can never choose a single favorite image; that's like asking a parent who is his or her favorite child! But I challenge your readers to let me know what their favorite image is. Photography is subjective, and we all look at images differently, so it would be exciting if parents could choose their favorite and see how it compares to others.
Parents: What was your favorite children's book growing up and why?
Souza: I'll confess that I wasn't much of a reader until I was an adult. But I do remember the first long book I read, The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and being so engrossed that I couldn't put it down.
Parents: Did Malia and Sasha grow tired of getting their picture taken? We know our kids do.
Souza: I was so proud of how they both conducted themselves in the public eye. They were also able to become comfortable with my presence in family situations to the point that they didn't really ever let my camera affect what they were doing.
Parents: Tell us your best advice for photographing kids.
Souza: Try capturing found moments instead of taking just posed pictures. For little kids, kneel or sit down so you're at their eye level; this angle is more engaging than standing and looking down at them. Pay attention to your background, too. There's nothing worse than having a pole sticking out of someone's head. And remember, bad weather sometimes equals good photographs.