President Obama’s speeches have provided fodder for a picture book from Simon & Schuster, and his inaugural address on Tuesday will become a new book as well. HarperCollins’s new Bowen Press imprint will release Our Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama’s First Address to the Nation, a 40-page picture book with illustrations by Greg Ruth.
The book will consist of the President’s speech (adapted for young readers—the entire speech will also be included, in the back matter), biographical notes about Obama, as well as an overview of his first 100 days in office. Graphic novelist/illustrator Ruth (Freaks of the Heartland; Sudden Gravity) had been sketching Obama throughout the Presidential campaign, and when Bowen Press publisher Brenda Bowen, who was on Ruth’s mailing list, saw additional Obama artwork that he had created on election night, she called Ruth and signed him up for this project, in anticipation of Obama’s inauguration.
Bowen, who herself traveled to Washington for the inauguration, is quick to point out that the book will encapsulate more than just Obama’s delivery of the speech. “It’s not about Tuesday the 20th of January, 2009,” she says. “It is a visual parsing of the President’s speech for children in the second and third grade.” She adds that the book could show soldiers and battlefields to accompany the speech’s references to Concord and Gettysburg, or images of Americans at work, paired with the lines, “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.”
She notes that the book will also include “anything of import or moment that happens between now and the time we print the book,” in the interest of making it both current as well as a historical document. “We wanted to take the time to make it a lasting book for kids,” she says. “I want them to take away the broad sweep of history and literary and even musical allusions that Obama worked into his speech. I want them to understand the richness of it. Having a visual will really bring home the images for young children.”
Our Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama’s First Address to the Nation by Barack Obama, illus. by Greg Ruth. HarperCollins/Bowen Press ISBN 978-0-06-183455-4. Oct. 2009