Friday, February 18, 2011

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is recorded as saying, “The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll give me a book I ain’t read.” On February 12, 2011, the United States celebrated the 202th anniversary of the birth of our 16th president. Here are nine books for children and teens which honor this great man.

Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by P. J. Lynch.
Recommended for ages 9 to 12.
Author Rosemary Wells bases this historical-fiction biography on a discovery she made while researching another Civil War era book: a 200 word fragment written by Willie Lincoln about a trip taken with his father Abraham Lincoln. In Lincoln and His Boys, Will and Tad take turns describing family life in the Lincoln household. The book is beautifully illustrated with oil paintings completed after careful study of hundreds of Lincoln images.

Abraham Lincoln Comes Home by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Wendell Minor.
Recommended for ages 4 to 8.
Following Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, Americans turned out by the thousands to honor the Civil War president as his funeral train traveled thirteen days from Washington, D.C., to his burial in Springfield, Illinois. Burleigh’s prose and Minor’s paintings record the fictionalized experience of a young boy as he shares in the Nation’s grieving.

Lincoln Shot: A President’s Life Remembered by Barry Denenberg, illustrated by Christopher Bing.
Recommended for ages 9 to 12.
The author writes in the style of newspapers of the time and includes factual information and copies of actual photographs with a chronology of Lincoln’s life, an index, and a list of picture credits at the end of the book. (Note: A problem with this book is that the author and illustrator do not provide article credits, footnotes or a bibliography. Readers are left to wonder which writings and illustrations in the book are actual reprints, and which are their own creation.)

The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming. Recommended for ages 10 to 14.
An in-depth and personal glimpse into the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, this book includes photographs, copies of documents, and highlights about the people important in Lincoln’s life and times. The author spent five years researching, and it is evident in the quality and thoroughness of the finished work. Unique to this book is the new insight into Mary Lincoln’s life provided by recently recovered personal letters.

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale (Introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend) by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by John Hendrix. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.
Young Lincoln, age seven, and his ten-year-old friend Austin get themselves into big trouble down at Knob Creek in this historical fiction picture book.

Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.
Recommended for ages 4 to 8.
Each two-page spread of this picture book style biography features author Rapport’s brief stanza highlighting a portion of Lincoln’s life, a related quote from Lincoln, and a painting by the illustrator. The last four pages of the book include a list of important dates in Lincoln’s life, suggested resources, and the full text of the Gettysburg Address. Unfortunately, there is no documentation in the book from when and where Lincoln’s quotes are taken.

Lincoln Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Shaped an Extraordinary Life by Martin W. Sandler.
Recommended for ages 9 to 12.
History professor and award-winning writer Martin Sandler documents more than 100 photographs of Abraham Lincoln’s life and times. Included in this collection is the only known pre-Gettysburg Address photograph of the sixteenth President.

Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You About the Civil War by Steve Sheinkin, illustrated by Tim Robinson. Recommended for ages 9 to 12.
Sheinkin is a former textbook writer who confesses to how boring they can be. In Two Miserable Presidents he uses real-life accounts and actual quotes – the stuff he was not allowed to use in textbooks. What results is an attention-grabbing and readable account of the Civil War, with focus on Presidents James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln. Sheinkin ends the book with a review of what happened to the key players after the war, interesting source notes, resources for further study, and an exhaustive index. Every quotation in the book is repeated in a chapter-by-chapter list providing the source.

Stand Tall, Abe Lincoln by Judith St. George, illustrated by Matt Faulkner.
Recommended for ages 4 to 8.
This engaging picture book biography spotlights Abraham Lincoln’s childhood from birth in Kentucky to his early teen years in Indiana. The book underscores Lincoln’s perseverance through poverty and hardship, including the death of his mother when he was only nine. Prominence is given to Lincoln’s step-mother, Sally Johnston, and her support of his mostly self-education. Herself illiterate, Sally loaned Lincoln books and advocated for his attending school whenever one was available. With Sally’s love, Lincoln “gained confidence to take his sense of fairness, his careful way of thinking, his hatred of cruelty and his ability to settle quarrels out into the world.” Author St. George points out the life experiences that formed the character of the man who became the 16th President of the United States.

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