“Today Show” co-host Jenna Bush Hager, the daughter of former President George W. Bush, visited Locust Valley last Saturday to sign copies of her children’s book, “Sisters First,” which she wrote with her twin sister, Barbara Pierce Bush.
A line of excited customers of all ages snaked around the Locust Valley Bookstore, spilling outside onto Birch Hill Road, nearly an hour before Bush Hager arrived. When she did, she smiled and greeted them as if she were reconnecting with old friends.
“I find the Bush family very interesting, and have read a little about Jenna,” said Kathleen Tisch, of Locust Valley. “She juggles a lot at home and with her career. I admire that in her.”
“Sisters First” is described by booksellers, including Amazon, as “A lovely, lyrical ode to the magic of sisterhood,” with a storyline that is relatable. The picture book focuses on a young girl’s wish to have a new sister, which is granted. Over time the girls become inseparable, playing and dancing, imagining and laughing. Together they are “smarter, kinder and braver than they ever thought they could be. And they are forever sisters first.”
The book signing took place on Small Business Saturday, but the bookstore’s owner, Lisa Scully, said that Bush Hager was not invited to promote the day. The store is always busy on that day, Scully said. Small Business Saturday stands on its own.
Scully explained she had tried to get Bush Hager, who has a weekend rental in Brookville, to come to the store for two years. “She has friends in this community and spends time here,” Scully said. “The way we got her here, I’d say, was with persistence and perseverance. We are so honored that she’s here.”
Sitting at a small table near the register with one of her three children, daughter Mila, 6, Bush Hager smiled often, saying, “Y’all come up here. It’s so nice to meet you.” She often had her picture taken with the book buyer.
“I was so excited to have my book signed by Jenna,” said Marilyn Gembs, of Locust Valley, who said she had read Laura Bush’s autobiography, “Spoken From the Heart.” “I love Jenna. She’s such a breath of fresh air and is so down to earth.”
Another excited book buyer, Marilyn Simon, of Roslyn Harbor, initially said that she was there to have the book signed for her granddaughters. Then she acknowledged that she was doing so for herself, too. The little girls in the book remind her of her granddaughters, with one who is blond and the other dark-haired, Simon explained.
Artist Barbara Prey, of Oyster Bay, was among those on line to meet Bush Hager. One of Prey’s works, a painting of the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room, is included in the permanent collection there. It was a favorite of Laura and George Bush, Prey said, and they chose the painting to decorate their 2003 Christmas card. Describing Laura Bush as a “delight to work with,” Prey said she felt compelled to meet her daughter.
Prey said she came from a family of readers, and added that she was grateful for the Locust Valley Bookstore. Not everyone is fortunate to have such a wonderful bookstore close to home, she said.