Tuesday, June 12, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama Autographs 'American Grown' In DC; Daughters Give It 'Thumbs-Up'

Fans wait in line for hours to meet Mrs. Obama at local bookstore...
Like a rock star with back-up dancers, First Lady Michelle Obama was flanked by local school children on Tuesday morning as she welcomed her fans to the downtown Barnes & Noble bookstore in Washington, DC for her very first autograph session for American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America. The event had the feel of a rock concert: Fans wearing blue paper wristbands provided by the store last Friday after they'd passed a complicated security pre-screening courtesy of the Secret Service had stood in line for hours in a light rain outside the bookstore for the chance to meet the First Lady. They'd started lining up at 7:30 AM for Mrs. Obama's scheduled 11:30 AM appearance. (Above: Mrs. Obama signing a book)

Published on May 29th, Mrs. Obama's first book includes gardening tips and recipes from the White House chefs as she tells her story of the Kitchen Garden, the Let's Move! campaign, and her efforts to change America's food and fitness culture. She told the crowd that her daughters have given the book the "thumbs-up," and hailed it as "everything I would have imagined."

"I am so proud of this product," Mrs. Obama said. "I hope it becomes the beginning of many conversations in your own homes, in your communities."

Clad in a pale beige top and a beige checked skirt with beige heels, Mrs. Obama, mic in hand, spoke to the first lucky group of fans allowed into the bookstore. Accompanied by kids from DC's Harriet Tubman and Bancroft Elementary Schools, which have provided helpers for the harvests and plantings in the Kitchen Garden, Mrs. Obama stood before a table topped with a blue and white checkered tablecloth with posters of the book's cover. (Above: The kids with Mrs. Obama)

First Daughters Malia, 13, and Sasha, newly 11, were purposefully left out of the many lavish photos that fill the pages of the book, a Random House photo editor who worked on the project for Crown Publishing Group told Obama Foodorama. But it's got her daughters' stamp of approval, Mrs. Obama told the crowd.

"When Malia and Sasha picked it up--you know, it's mom--it's like, oh, your book, how nice," Mrs. Obama said, imitating her daughters' disinterested response.


"They actually got pulled in by the pictures, and then they couldn’t put it down and they started looking through, and then they started actually reading it," Mrs. Obama said. "And then, eventually, I got actually a thumbs-up."

Rather than the First Daughters, First Dog Bo joins Mrs. Obama in many of the photos in the book, which were created by food/lifestyle photographer Quentin Bacon. There's even a section in the book that details Bo's "job" in the Kitchen Garden--which is basically inspecting it with White House staff.  CLICK HERE for a book excerpt (Above: An image from the book)

Mrs. Obama also admitted to the crowd that she does not have the greenest thumb.

"I'm not the best gardener in the world, but I had a great team of National Park Service people," she said.

In addition to the White House chefs, a Park Service team, led by chief horticulturalist Jim Adams, maintains the Kitchen Garden at the White House, and Mrs. Obama's author proceeds from the book will go to the National Park Foundation.

The kids from Harriet Tubman and Bancroft got a shout-out from the First Lady, too.

"They are my partners in crime," Mrs. Obama said. "They come to the White House, they don’t get star struck, they don’t look around--they get to work. They get our garden planted and harvested in a matter of 10, 15 minutes--sometimes 30 minutes. They just get it done."

The First Lady's fans were a diverse crowd, and they were allowed to bring children along, provided they had also passed the Secret Service pre-screening. All who jumped through the appropriate hoops were given a one-page instruction sheet with guidelines about the book signing that advised that "Mrs. Obama will not be personalizing." Fans were also not allowed to bring in their own cameras or cell phones to capture images of their meeting. (Above: Mrs. Obama speaks with young fans)

Those who attended the book signing had to pre-purchase American Grown last Friday at Barnes & Noble for $22.76, and leave their copies at the store. The price is a discount from the cover price of $30, though B&N sells the book online for $17.85. As of last Monday, June 4, American Grown was #29 on the B&N Top 100: Book Bestsellers list. This week, it is #62.

The First Lady has no other book signings planned at this time, a White House official told Obama Foodorama. One of the community projects featured in the book, the non-profit Fresh Moves, located in Mrs. Obama's hometown of Chicago, last week received a $45,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture to continue its work. (Above: A customer displays an autographed copy of the book)

After the book signing, Mrs. Obama joined NPR's live call-in radio show Talk of the Nation and discussed the book and the Let's Move! campaign. She took questions from listeners.

Click here for full details about the book. Recipes from the book are linked here. And click here for links to all posts about American Grown.

The transcript of the First Lady's remarks.

*Pool photos; First Lady with Bo by Quentin Bacon, reprinted from American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America by Michelle Obama. Copyright © 2012 by the National Park Foundation. Published by Crown, a division of Random House, Inc.