Off the Shelf: C. Brian Kelly and Ingrid Smyer-Kelly

August 08, 2012

A newly revised edition of "Best Little Stories from the White House," by the husband-and-wife writing team of C. Brian Kelly and Ingrid Smyer-Kelly, is being released in August, in time for the presidential election.

Kelly teaches newswriting in the University of Virginia\'s College of Arts & Sciences and was the original editor of Military History and World War II magazines. In 1989, he and his then-future wife, Ingrid Smyer, a freelance writer-editor, launched their series of "Best Little Stories" historical books.

Among the new stories in this latest edition, readers will learn that the famous "Jackson Magnolia" on the South Lawn of the White House may not have been planted by Andrew Jackson after all; and that the first babies born in the White House were enslaved black children, not President Thomas Jefferson\'s white grandson, as asserted by the official White House website.

"Kelly\'s stories more than skim the surface," the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph said, reviewing an early edition of the White House book in 1999. "They are told in satisfying detail and possess the immediacy of a front-page newspaper article."

The Kellys began their book career in 1989 by self-publishing a slim volume of magazine-like vignettes called "Best Little Stories from World War lI."

After that sold about 35,000 copies, they produced their first volume of White House stories and followed up with "Best Little Stories from the Civil War." About that time, publisher Cumberland House of Nashville, Tenn., purchased the series.

By the time Sourcebooks acquired Cumberland House as an imprint in early 2009, the Kellys had expanded their series to nine books containing nearly 1,000 stories. The World War II volume, greatly expanded from its original 101 stories, was translated into Polish. Reissued in somewhat revised form by Sourcebooks, it still is selling 23 years after its first appearance.

The new edition of "Best Little Stories from the White House" will be the fifth book from the series to be re-issued by Sourcebooks.

Kelly was a newspaper reporter for 20 years before his magazine stints. Smyer-Kelly, a 1981 U.Va, graduate, also has a background in newspaper work and magazine free-lancing.

The other "Best Little Stories" feature the American Revolution, the Wild West and the Kellys\' adopted state of Virginia. They also produced an anecdotal biography of Winston Churchill, stemming from their lectures at a 2007 Oxford-U.Va. seminar on the wartime leader held at Oxford\'s Merton College.