At Prairie Lights books in Iowa City on Thursday, President Obama's purchase of a "Star Wars" pop-up book for the son of press secretary Robert Gibbs drew laughs. But his purchase of "The Secret of Zoom" for his daughter caught the attention of a Minnesota woman.

Lynne Jonell, the author, was born in Little Falls, grew up in Richfield and now lives in Plymouth.

"The whole thing has been unbelievable," she said Friday.

An automatic Google alert was the first notice she had that something remarkable had happened. Then the e-mails starting arriving. One was from a stranger -- the husband of Victoria Walton, the bookseller who recommended "Zoom" to Obama.

"He told me, 'She's been hand-selling your book forever. She just loves it,'" Jonell said. "I'm delighted the president bought my book, and I hope the girls love it. But to hear that from a children's bookseller, that was an amazing accolade."

Jonell is the author of 10 books for children. "The Secret of Zoom" was named a best book of 2009 by School Library Journal. It's the story of a girl named Christina, who lives with her father in a big stone house that looks a lot like the Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. (Subconscious inspiration, Jonell says.) When Christina tries to help a young orphan boy named Taft, she begins to unravel the mystery of her mother's death.

Jonell posted a video on her website Friday, showing Obama holding up her book (you can see it at

And Walton? In gratitude, Jonell sent her a big bouquet of flowers.