Obama tells daughters of his heroes in new children's book

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A touching vote-winner – among children if not every adult – hit the bookshelves in America yesterday written by none other than Barack Obama, whose success in the best-sellers' lists might seem nowadays to be more enduring than his popularity at the ballot box. The picture book, Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, celebrates 13 American heroes whose qualities he sees in his children, Malia and Sasha.

Each double-page begins with a quality the president associates with those Americans in history who have inspired him. Thus "smart" is Albert Einstein, "strong" is Helen Keller, and "inspiring" is Cesar Chavez. His choice of Sitting Bull as a "healer" has assured that the book will not escape political controversy. The American Indian chief defeated George Custer in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. It was a humiliation that some conservatives see as disgraceful rather than inspiring.

To protect the author from allegations that he has spent time writing for children while he should be governing, the publishers, Alfred Knopf, were yesterday quick to insist that the book was written before Mr Obama, took his oath of office last year.