Obama Saga Is Shaking Things Up In The Publishing World

by VR Sreeraman on  March 21, 2009 at 3:10 PM Lifestyle News
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Move over, Winnie the Pooh. And watch out, Harry Potter. Children's books have a new hero: Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States.
 Obama Saga Is Shaking Things Up In The Publishing World
Obama Saga Is Shaking Things Up In The Publishing World

The life of the new president has inspired kiddie titles from "Mama Voted for Obama," to "Barack Obama: Change Has Come" or "Hopes and Dreams: The Story of Barack Obama."

The new US president is shaking things up in the publishing world, with at least 30 books about him on the market in the youth-oriented titles alone, a record for a president in his first year of office.

Children's books about presidents and other historical figures are nothing new, to be sure. There are hundreds in print about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.

But industry insiders say it looks like Obama has quite a future ahead of him in youth-oriented books: most of the books currently on the market were written before he won the White House.

His presidential rival, Republican John McCain, has one youth-oriented title in print: 'My Dad. John McCain," penned by his daughter, Meghan McCain.

"We decided to do the (Obama) book before he even got the Democratic nomination. When it was still he and Hillary (Clinton). He had just won the Iowa primary," recalled Justin Chanda, vice president at Simon and Schuster's Books for Young Readers, which published a best-seller.

At first "we realized that even if he didn't get elected this was somebody that is going to have an impact on history. This is somebody that parents would tell the kids about," Chanda said.

The outcome: "Obama: Son of Promises, Child of Hope", a richly illustrated biographical album, has sold 350,000 copies: which "is in the stratosphere, this is massive," Chanda told AFP.

"It's a very, very big figure for children's books, especially for a picture book. Now if you have 50,000 copies sold, you have a best seller," he explained.

Chanda acknowledged that "there is a number of books about Obama" in the market but "we were the first one in the store and that's helped us a lot."

Some of the youth-oriented Obama books focus on the new president's own youth, based on his autobiography "Dreams from my Father."

In one, young Barry, whose father was a black Kenyan and his mother a white woman from Kansas, asks "Who am I?" "I don't look like my mother, I don't look like my father, I only look like me." Such reflections often ring true for kids in the increasingly diverse and multiracial United States.

In another book, Jonah Winter's "Barack Obama," "he arrived here during a dark time in American history. All across America, people were losing their jobs, losing their houses, losing their sense of hope."

But Chanda insisted "there is nothing political about it.

"It's just sort of the origin of this guy that everyone is talking about," he said. "That's appealing (and) it's a great thing to share with children."

In majority African-American Washington's public libraries, Obama for kids is a huge hit. It probably does not hurt that Obama has brought young kids back to the White House.

"There is a huge interest in these books. They get checked out very frequently," said Ebony Curry in the children's division at the Martin Luther King library.

Audrey Fields, the acting chief in the same library's kids' section, said: "We can see 15 to a 50 kids on a given day" looking for information on the president for school assignments and reports.

At a local bookstore, Martha Johnson stopped in to pick up an Obama book for her grandson.

Referring to kids catching a glimpse of the president on TV, she joked: "Children that can only say Mama and Daddy can also say Obama. So they'd come around the corner, and they'd see the face of Obama and they'd say: "O-ba-ma!"

Source: AFP

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