Obama to publish children’s book

By Christi Parsons

Tribune Washington Bureau (MCT)

WASHINGTON – President Obama, who has worked to shield his daughters from the spotlight, will publish a children’s book later this fall framed as a letter from him to them. Aides to Obama say the president and first lady aren’t worried that the book will foist the children into the public eye, because it is not about them, but rather a tribute to 13 Americans and their commitment to the nation.

The Obamas intend to continue protecting the privacy of their daughters, Malia and Sasha, according to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. The girls rarely take part in official events with their parents, and the White House actively discourages press coverage of their comings and goings.

“Our encouragement is to keep their private lives private,” Gibbs said Wednesday. The volume is “an inspirational book about the country they live in and about their ability and the ability for children throughout this country to dream … to dream big and accomplish whatever they want to.”

“Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters” is a children’s illustrated book, a slim volume with a small amount of text written by Obama, according to its publisher, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.

The book is due out on Nov. 16, written in English and will be available around the world. The manuscript is part of a three-volume deal Obama signed after his election to the Senate in 2004, and was completed before he was sworn in as president.

It is being marketed as a “moving tribute” to groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped the nation. Artist Georgia O’Keeffe, baseball great Jackie Robinson and President George Washington are among those whose stories it profiles.

Upon moving into the White House, first lady Michelle Obama consulted with her predecessors about their own practices for keeping their children out of the limelight. In many ways, the Obamas follow the precedent that Bill and Hillary Clinton set for their daughter, Chelsea, during their residence here.

After all, said Gibbs, Malia and Sasha Obama didn’t make the decision to move to Washington, and their parents want them to “live as normal a set of lives as they can.” Gibbs said the president will not be deeply involved in marketing the book.

Knopf Executive Editor Michelle Frey edited “Of Thee I Sing,” which the publishing house says it acquired from the president’s attorney, Robert B. Barnett. Illustrated by best-selling artist Loren Long, the book will carry a retail price of $17.99. Its first run will see 500,000 copies printed, and proceeds will go to a scholarship fund for the children of dead and disabled soldiers.