Obama's "Of Thee I Sing" hits bookstore shelves

Obama's children's book "Of Thee I Sing" celebrates a diverse America.

Obama's book for children is addressed to his daughters but dedicated to wife Michelle for her "fierce love and daily good sense" as a mother.

Barack Obama has already established himself as a successful author of adult books with both his memoir "Dreams from My Father" and his political book "The Audacity of Hope" enjoying solid sales around the globe. Today, however, the president makes the leap into the world of children's books with "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters."

Written by Obama before he took office in January, 2009, the book celebrates an America "made up of people of every kind," each bringing their different gifts to the mix.

Obama chose to profile a very diverse cluster of 13 Americans whose lives span the course of the country's history. The group includes five women and eight men and ranges from heroes straight from the early pages of US history (George Washington and Abraham Lincoln) to later civil rights heroes (Martin Luther King and César Chávez). Obama also honors artists (Georgia O'Keefe, Maya Lin, and Billie Holiday), a native American hero (Sitting Bull), a scientist and immigrant (Albert Einstein), a sports hero who also became a civil rights symbol (Jackie Robinson), an astronaut (Neil Armstrong), a philanthropist (Jane Addams), and a victor over severe physical adversity (Helen Keller).

Each of these, Obama writes in text that is directed to his daughters Sasha and Malia, "made bright lights shine by sharing their unique gifts and giving us courage to lift one another up ... to work and build upon all that is good in our nation."

"Have I told you that they are all a part of you?" he asks. "Have I told you that you are one of them and that you are the future?"

Obama is not the first US president to write a children's book. Theodore Roosevelt penned one before taking office and Jimmy Carter wrote one with his daughter Amy during his postpresidency. (To see a list of five children's books by US politicians click here.) But he is the first to publish one during his presidency.

The president may have taken a beating in the recent midterm elections, but his book is expected to do well regardless of the political climate. It delivers an upbeat, appealing message and it arrives at the start of the holiday period and features illustrations by popular children's book artist Loren Long (well known for his bestselling book "Otis" as well as collaborations with other celebrities including Madonna and Frank McCourt).

Obama will not, however, be seeing any profits from the book. All proceeds from sales of "Of Thee I Sing" will be donated to a scholarship fund for the children of soldiers who have been killed or disabled.

The 40-page book, which has a list price of $17.99, has a first printing of 500,000 copies.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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