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Ladder to grandma...

No denying whose half sister she is: Maya Soetoro-Ng has the same earnest-calm manner, the same lofty rhetoric punctured by flashes of dry humor. She and President Obama must have gotten it from their mom.

Their mother, Ann Dunham, who died in 1995, is the central character in "Ladder to the Moon," Soetoro-Ng's first children's book -- but already the second to come out of this first family, following her brother's "Of Thee I Sing." "Ladder" tells the story of Soetoro-Ng's daughter Suhaila, 6, and her yearning to know "Grandma Annie." One night, a golden ladder appears next to her bed, and the little girl spends a magical night with her grandma on the moon.

At a Washington public library on Friday, part of a two-week book tour, Soetoro-Ng told a group of children and adults that she wrote the book to let her own two daughters, as well as nieces Malia and Sasha, know what the grandmother they never met was like. "She would have given them so much."

Early reviews: The president "said it was sweet and captured our mother's spirit nicely," Soetoro-Ng said.

Soetoro-Ng, who is a teacher, and her family are now back in Hawaii after a brief stint living in Washington in the first year of her brother's administration. She said she wrote the first draft in a day, then began editing while artist Yuyi Morales worked on the illustrations, a process that took more than three years.


The Maine event...

Miss Maine USA is going to sit out Donald Trump's Miss USA Pageant to attend her big sister's wedding.

NBC moved the Miss USA Pageant from its traditional slot in April to June. Emily Johnson says the new weekend is the only one in which she had other plans -- plans that trump the contest.

Johnson, a Baylor University graduate and accomplished pianist, is allowed to keep her crown, but she's giving up the title, prizes and appearances.

Mackenzie Davis, executive director of the Miss Maine USA pageant, says she understands Johnson's reasoning, but she says Miss Maine is a serious commitment and that she's disappointed Johnson withdrew from her duties.

The state's participant in the Miss USA Pageant will be the first runner-up, Ashley Marble, of Cumberland.


Occupying a new office...

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is set to play the vice president in a new HBO comedy.

The network said Monday it has ordered the new comedy series, "Veep," and expects it to debut in fall 2012. Louis-Dreyfus plays a former senator who becomes vice president and finds the job is everything she was warned about.

As a featured player in "Seinfeld" and star of "The New Adventures of Old Christine," Louis-Dreyfus has a strong track record in TV comedy.

The series was created by Armando Iannucci, who earned an Oscar nomination for writing "In the Loop." He's an executive producer along with Frank Rich, a former New York Times columnist.

Said Louis-Dreyfus: "Although everyone says this is a comedy, I don't think there is anything funny at all about me being a heartbeat away from the presidency."

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