'Grace for President' - DiPucchio's 8-year-old book gets renewed interest in 2016


By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

Kelly DiPucchio couldn’t believe it last fall when a senior editor from the Washington, D.C. bureau of Time Magazine called her about her 2008 children’s book, “Grace for President.”

“I was surprised to hear from (Time)… Being interviewed (by Time) doesn’t happen to children’s book authors very often,” confessed DiPucchio, a Detroit area resident who has penned 19 children’s books.

The upcoming 2016 presidential election has been heating up these last few months with Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton – the former Secretary of State from 2009-13 and the former First Lady when her husband Bill Clinton was the President of United States from 1993 to 2001 – in the forefront, along with Republican Donald Trump. Due to Clinton’s run for the White House, there has been a renewed interest in “Grace” (Disney-Hyperion $16.99), a New York Times best-seller now in its eighth printing.

In fact, the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University under the leadership of director Jean Sinzdak, in conjunction with their “Teach a Girl to Lead” project, will be sending copies of “Grace” to every female governor, member of Congress, and state legislator across the nation, encouraging them to read and share the book with local elementary schools during a 2016 campaign focused on Presidents’ Day and Women’s History Month.

“How awesome is that?” enthused DiPucchio, who collaborated on “Grace” with illustrator LeUyen Pham. “I was overjoyed, and a little stunned, when I found out that ‘Grace’ was going to be sent to every woman governor, member of Congress, and state legislator in the country. I was first contacted by (Sinzdak) last year. At the time, she was just writing to tell me about their Teach a Girl to Lead project and that they were huge fans of ‘Grace.’ She was wondering how they might use the book to make women’s public leadership visible to the next generation. In early December, she contacted me again to tell me about their exciting campaign which encourages women politicians to read and share ‘Grace’ at their local elementary schools in conjunction with Presidents Day and Women’s History Month.”

According to DiPucchio, the idea for “Grace” was inspired by her former editor Donna Bray’s daughter, Grace. When Grace was in preschool, her teacher had displayed a poster of what was then all 43 Presidents of the United States. Grace wanted to know if there were any female presidents and innocently asked her teacher, “Where are the girls?”

“Grace’s teacher relayed the story to (Bray) who felt the anecdote would make a great foundation for a picture book,” said DiPucchio, a 1989 Michigan State alum who lives in Macomb with her husband John. “(Bray) editor called me and asked me if I could build a story around Grace’s thought-provoking question.”

In the book, Grace runs against a boy at her school in some mock election. Initially, nobody thinks she has a prayer. However, Grace’s opponent rests on his laurels while she tirelessly and relentlessly campaigns, eventually winning the election.

After Grace wins, she vows to run for President of the United States one day. This time around, there is no doubt in her classmates’ minds with regards to her success. On the final page, an adult Grace is being sworn in as the President of the United States, an image DiPucchio finds inspiring and moving to this day.

“I’ve been reading ‘Grace’ aloud to groups of students for nearly eight years and I still get choked up when I get to the final page in the book that shows Grace as an adult being inaugurated as the President of the United States,” she said. “There are no words on the page because words aren’t necessary. It’s a very powerful image – one that I hope inspires all children, regardless of their gender or race, to dream big.”

She also sang Pham’s praises.

“As is often the case with picture books, the author and the illustrator do very little collaborating unless it’s a special project. I had been a fan of LeUyen’s work for some time and I was thrilled when she was hired to do the illustrations for ‘Grace.’ I felt, and still feel, she was the perfect artist to bring Grace’s story to life,” complimented DiPucchio.

One thing that also makes “Grace” stand out is how DiPucchio broke down the electoral process and the Electoral College for little kids.

“I wasn’t sure if this was something that could be accomplished in a picture book, but my idea to incorporate the Electoral College system into the story was one of the best decisions I could have made,” said DiPucchio. “The book has been used in classrooms across the country as a teaching resource and is even now in a McGraw-Hill language arts textbook in a social studies unit called ‘Let’s Make a Difference.’”

Additionally, DiPucchio has learned that young girls dress up as Grace for Halloween in lieu of dressing up as princesses. There are also dramatic readings of “Grace” on YouTube. Further, “Grace” is also being adapted into a stage play later on this year in North Carolina.

“My husband and I hope to attend the opening night performance,” said DiPucchio.

There was not any formal selection process by Rutgers when choosing “Grace,” DiPucchio stated.

“From what I understand, the book was just a good fit for their initiative because the story features a strong, young female character who has political aspirations and big dreams,” she said. “The best part about all of the renewed interest in ‘Grace’ is the idea that my book might actually start conversations in classrooms and in homes about gender inequality and politics… The best part about writing this book has been hearing from young girls across the country. I have a letter on my desk from a little girl in Missouri named Kenya. She writes: ‘Your book makes me want to be president, too.’ To read those words from child you don’t even know is incredibly humbling and extremely rewarding.”