Pop Culture

Obama children’s book already a hit

President Obama is still a hit with the nation's book buyers.

Obama's tribute to 13 American ground breakers, "Of Thee I Sing," was in the top 25 on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com as of Wednesday morning, less than two days after the children's book was announced and two months before its scheduled release.

Random House Children's Books plans a first printing of 500,000 copies with a list price of $17.99. The president will donate any author proceeds to "a scholarship fund for the children of fallen and disabled soldiers serving our nation," the publisher said in a statement.

Both of Obama's previous works, the memoir "Dreams From My Father" and the policy book "The Audacity of Hope," are million sellers.

Obama, who finished "Of Thee I Sing" before his administration began, is the rare president to have a book come out while still in office. He will be an even rarer one if "Of Thee I Sing" is a best seller.

Presidents from Ulysses S. Grant to John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton have written popular books, but none came out while they were in the White House. Clinton's policy book, "Between Hope and History," was released near the end of his first term and sold a fraction of the memoir "My Life," published three years after his second term.

At a press briefing Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that neither Obama nor his daughters, Malia or Sasha, who helped inspire "Of Thee I Sing" and appear on the illustrated cover, will be involved in marketing the book.

Asked about how the White House urges the media to respect the girls' privacy, but then features them on the book jacket, Gibbs said, "Our encouragement is to keep their private lives private.

"If you read the book, it is, I think the president would tell you, an inspirational book about the country they live in and about their ability and the ability for children throughout this country to dream, as the president talked about yesterday (during a back-to-school address to students), to dream big and accomplish whatever they want to," Gibbs said.

Obama's book is illustrated by Loren Long, whose many credits include Watty Piper's classic "The Little Engine That Could," Randall de Seve's "Toy Boat" and Madonna's "Mr. Peabody's Apples." Long wrote and illustrated the children's stories "Otis" and "Drummer Boy."

Random House children's president and publisher Chip Gibson lauded the new Obama book, which is intended for readers ages 3 and up.

"It is an honor to publish this extraordinary book, which is an inspiring marriage of words and images, history and story," Gibson said Monday in a statement. "'Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters' celebrates the characteristics that unite all Americans — the potential to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths."

Numerous books by and about presidents are scheduled for the fall, including Carter's White House diaries, biographies of Washington and Roosevelt and George W. Bush's "Decision Points," which arrives a week before "Of Thee I Sing" and will be published by Crown.