Nov 15, 2010

Diversity in unity: On the book's final spread, the president asks his daughters (and us): "Have I told you that America is made up of people of every kind?"
President Obama's picture book for kids, Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters (Knopf, $17.99), pays tribute to 13 Americans whose traits he sees in his own children.

The 31-page book, for kids ages 3 and up, is filled with lyrical questions for Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9, opening with, "Have I told you lately how wonderful you are?"

The book, out Tuesday, is illustrated with Loren Long's paintings of the Obama girls and their dog, Bo, as well as the 13 famous Americans as kids and grown-ups.

A series of two-page spreads asks questions ("Have I told you that you are creative?") across from short tributes. He writes of Georgia O'Keeffe: "She helped us see big beauty in what is small: the hardness of stone and the softness of feather." His most controversial choice may be Sitting Bull, who defeated Custer at Little Bighorn: ("A Sioux medicine man who healed broken hearts and broken promises.")

Obama's publisher says he's not planning interviews or events for the book. His royalties are to go to a scholarship fund for children of soldiers killed or disabled.

Obama has written two best sellers: Dreams From My Father, a 1995 memoir reissued in 2004, and 2006's The Audacity of Hope. The first printing for his kids' book is 500,000 copies.

Long, 46, who has illustrated picture books by Frank McCourt and Madonna, says that after reading Obama's manuscript for the first time, "all I wanted to do was share its powerful message with my own two sons."

Obama's lawyer, Robert Barnett, says the manuscript was written between the 2008 election and the 2009 inauguration, but publication awaited "the beautiful illustrations."




President Obama pays tribute to these 13 Americans:

Painter Georgia O'Keeffe (creative)

Albert Einstein (smart)

Jackie Robinson (brave)

Sitting Bull ("a healer")

Singer Billie Holiday("you have your own song")

Helen Keller (strong)

Vietnam Memorial architect Maya Lin (it's important to "honor others' sacrifices")

Social worker Jane Addams (kind)

Martin Luther King Jr. ("you don't give up")

Astronaut Neil Armstrong(explorer)

Farmworkers leader Cesar Chavez (inspiring)

Abraham Lincoln ("part of a family")

George Washington ("proud to be an American")


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