Loren Long likes President Obama. Long even illustrated one of the chief executive's books.

"It was a big honor in my career," the artist told students and teachers at Ybarra Academy in Rowland Heights.

"President Obama wrote it for his daughters out of love while he was a senator," Long explained. "Its message is so powerful, it talks about how each and every one of us has talents within."

The Cincinnati resident illustrated "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters" in 2010. President Obama wrote the moving tribute about 13 great Americans, whose ideas have shaped our nation.

From the artistry of Georgia O'Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, President

Loren Long talks to kindergarten and first graders about his book "Nightsong". (Staff photo by Keith Birmingham)
Obama sees the traits of these heroes in America's children.

"What I came to feel as I was working on this project was the connection I had with our president, as not only author-illustrator but as two fathers," Long said. "This was written by a father like me who more than anything wants for his children to realize their potential."

Long got the job because he had illustrated one of Malia and Sasha Obama's favorite books, "The Drummer Boy." On Tuesday, Long was encouraging the youngsters at the local academy of arts and technology.

"When I was young, one of the things I liked to do was draw. I would draw Snoopy on the kitchen floor," Long recalled.

He never lost his love for drawing, taking every art class


that he could find. Long believes his calling as a storyteller lies in illustrating children's books.

In 2003, singer Madonna chose him to illustrate her story, "Mr. Peabody's Apples," which rose the top of The New York Times Best-Seller List. That year, he also won the prestigious Golden Kite Award for best picture book illustration from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators for "I Dream of Trains."

Long won another Golden Kite Honor for his illustrations in Walt Whitman's "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer," which also won the 2004 Parents' Choice Gold Award.

A new edition of his childhood favorite, Watty Piper's "The Little Engine That Could" featured all-new illustrations by Long. The book made its way to the top of the Best-Seller List in 2006.

The award-winning author and illustrator was brought to the Rowland Unified academy by Mrs. Nelson's Toys and Books in La Verne.

Earlier in the day, Long had visited Blandford Elementary School. Later in the day, he would be autographing copies of his latest children's book "Nightsong."

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