President Obama, the merchandising phenomenon, has been a boon to sidewalk T-shirt vendors everywhere.
Less conspicuous, perhaps, is the equally robust success of the children’s book industry in marketing Mr. Obama’s hopeful aura and personal history to parents of young children.
Are children’s book publishers seeking to indoctrinate impressionable young readers - or are they simply obeying the laws of supply and demand?
When the country elects a new president, publishers characteristically issue a biography or two geared toward young readers.
It’s a civic-minded, thumbnail history service for text-starved schools and diligent parents. Scholastic’s Rookie Biographies series, for instance, touted George W. Bush’s back story thus: “Young readers will learn how he started in the oil business and owned a baseball team before going into politics.”
But in the case of Mr. Obama, publishers are tapping into unusual levels of excitement and curiosity.
Justin Chanda, vice president of Simon & Schuster’s Books for Young Readers imprint, said he and his team felt rumbles of a larger presence the day after Mr. Obama’s triumph in the January 2008 Iowa caucuses.
They wanted a book - double-quick.
In industry parlance, they call it a “crash.”
There was the possibility, to be sure, that they were jumping history’s gun. The junior senator from Illinois had been a national figure for little more than three years. He hadn’t even won the nomination of his party, let alone the presidency.
“We made the decision to publish either way,” Mr. Chanda said. “Here’s somebody who’s inspiring so many people and has so much to say. He’s going to be a historical figure either way.
“You wanted to be first to market and to catch the wave,” he said.
Author Nikki Grimes’ “Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope” - pitched to children ages 5 to 10 - hit bookstores in August. It tells Mr. Obama’s story through the eyes of a black boy watching, with his mother, the would-be president on television. Its cover features an image of Mr. Obama’s face bathed in shafts of light - iconic in the literal, religious sense of the word.
With 325,000 copies sold, the book has been an astonishing success, buoyed successively by Mr. Obama’s primary and general election victories and his inauguration.
“We’re in our 16th printing, and it just will not stop,” Mr. Chanda said.View Entire Story
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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