OGDEN — An 11-year-old Ogden girl has become a mini-celebrity because her letter to Barack Obama has been printed in a new book, "Dear President Obama: Letters of Hope From Children Across America."
Claire Mortenson asked Obama: "Are you going to make this continent greener? Can you fix this economy? How are you going to help me and my mom, who is now single, keep enough money in our pocket to buy food? Will you keep the arts alive? And most importantly, do you believe in ghosts?"
The book of letters, compiled by Bruce Kluger and David Tabatsky, was published in March by the Beckham Publications Group.
Though just 11, Claire is troubled by grown-up concerns such as the economy and the environment.
"Sometimes I'll see smog a lot," she said. "I don't want to see that anymore."
The struggling economy has the Ogden Preparatory Academy sixth-grader worried about continued funding for the arts. Claire takes ballet lessons at the Imagine Ballet Theatre and cello lessons at Weber State University. And when her mother, Lisa Kopelke, can afford it, Claire also takes piano lessons.
"I hope (Obama) changes things a lot," Claire said. "I want him to help fix the economy and stuff. It's expensive to buy stuff now. We have to pay for ballet classes, and it's real expensive."
Her seemingly lighthearted question about ghosts is a serious topic, too. Claire and her mother enjoy watching TV shows together that examine the existence of ghosts.
"Our neighbor has a ghost," Claire said matter-of-factly. "Someone drowned in the pool. She turns on lights all the time."
Claire said she hopes Obama reads her letter. And better yet, she hopes the president writes her back.
"That would be really cool," she said.
Claire said she was "really excited" when she received an e-mail informing her that her letter was going to be published in "Dear President Obama."
"We were going to buy a copy, but (the publisher) sent us one," she said.
Being published is especially exciting for Claire because her mother is an author and illustrator, and she aspires "to be a writer and write novels like mom."
Her letter's inclusion in the book also landed Claire an interview on National Public Radio, which was broadcast in Utah on Aug. 19.
Kluger and Tabatsky started the "Dear President Obama" project shortly after the 2008 election by e-mailing a few friends to see if their kids wanted to say something to the president-elect. Those friends wrote others, and within six weeks, more than 1,000 letters were submitted.
The 179 children whose letters were selected for the book come from a wide variety of backgrounds, representing Manhattan private schools and poor school districts in Nebraska, 29 states and every region of the country.
"Despite their differences, their letters are uniformly inspirational," Kluger said. "They express their hopes, fears and dreams about the world. They exhibit boundless excitement about the historic election, and David and I wanted to recapture that spirit."