It's not unusual that Obama, a successful author already, would want to write a children's book — presidents often like being associated with the cause of literacy, says Leonard S. Marcus, a historian of children's books. Obama, he says, is effectively using the device of writing to his own daughters as a way of speaking to all children. "He has something to say," Marcus says. "He has a sense of history, and of the hunger for role models."
Marcus likens Obama's book to a cross between Roosevelt's book of letters to his children and Kennedy's book, which emphasized heroes. The president's goals in writing it clearly differ, he says, from that of some celebrities, who write children's books as sort of a publicity stunt.
"It helps get the authors on TV," says Marcus, author of "Minders of Make Believe." ''And publishers use these books as a way to lure customers into the bookstores, hopefully to buy something else." Among the more respected celebrity children's authors, he says: Jamie Lee Curtis and John Lithgow.
The 40-page "Of Thee I Sing," with a list price of $17.99, is part of a $1.9 million, three-book deal with Random House reached in 2004, according to a disclosure report filed in 2005, when Obama was a U.S. senator from Illinois. The other two books were nonfiction.
Associated Press National Writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report.
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