WASHINGTON -- Michelle Obama held her first-ever book signing Tuesday at a Barnes & Noble store in downtown Washington for "American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America." The first lady's well-received book is a guide to gardening as a family, based on lessons learned from her three years of overseeing the White House Kitchen Garden.
More than 150 people showed up and stood in line for hours on a rainy gray morning, many of them mothers with school-aged children.
"This is my very first book and my very first and probably only book signing," said the first lady, who seemed genuinely excited about autographing her own work. Before she began, Obama double-checked with an assistant that she was writing her name on the right part of the book. "I'm so very proud of this product, and it's everything I would have imagined," she beamed.
The first lady stressed the importance of involving children in growing or choosing what they eat, explaining that it was only when she did this with her own daughters that "they really accepted [healthy diets] much more."
During her five-minute remarks, she was flanked by students from two Washington public schools, Bancroft Elementary and Harriet Tubman Elementary. Both schools have partnered with the White House to allow students to volunteer in the White House Kitchen Garden.
On the heels of an all-out media blitz last week, including the first lady's appearance on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Obama's book has rocketed to the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list for hardcover advice books.
Designed to appeal to both young readers and their parents, "American Grown" includes dozens of full-color photos and offers food-related anecdotes about the first family. The book seeks to further one of the first lady's signature initiatives: combating childhood obesity. Obama writes of growing up on the South Side of Chicago, where "vegetable gardening wasn't exactly a common pastime." Years later, a pediatrician advised her to make sure her two young daughters ate more vegetables.
The first lady also reveals that she began thinking about the White House Kitchen Garden in early 2008, long before her family moved to Washington, when Barack Obama was still a junior senator battling Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Once the family arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in January 2009, plans came together quickly, and the first lady broke ground on the garden that April with the help of local elementary school students. Since then, the garden has expanded to include, among things, beehives on the White House lawn and heirloom beans first cultivated by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.
There's more to "American Grown," however, than stories and photos from the Obamas' garden. The coffee-table book also highlights a number of urban vegetable gardens around the country, from Maui to New York City, and serves up recipes from White House chefs.
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