Books about Abraham Lincoln that would appeal to younger audiences
The nation’s 16th commander in chief is one of the most documented and popular presidents in history, but the challenge for Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial was coming up with new ways to bring alive the stone monument and stovepipe hat for young people.
Consider these offerings:
“Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War” (National Geographic, $18.95, ages 9-12) by Thomas B. Allen and Roger MacBride Allen.
Father and son historians fascinate with tales of the train, telegraph and evolving rifle as tools of war. What role did hot-air balloons play in the Civil War? Which side sent the first ironclad ships into the fray? Photos, line drawings and breakout boxes accompany otherwise heavy text.
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“Abe’s Honest Words” (Hyperion, $16.99, ages 8-12) by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Kadir Nelson.
Lincoln’s most famous words come alive with Nelson’s richly colored paintings: Young Lincoln with book in hand as he works the fields, his life toiling on the Mississippi River and his thoughts on a hideous sight in New Orleans: “Twelve Negroes, chained six and six together like so many fish upon a trotline.”
“What Lincoln Said” (HarperCollins, $17.99, ages 6-9) by Sarah L. Thomson and illustrated by James E. Ransome.
Lincoln’s life opens with the first dollar he ever earned. Later, wife Mary encourages him to run for president, Lincoln pleads with Southern states to remain in the Union and frets when he can’t stop the Civil War
“Lincoln and His Boys” (Candlewick Press, $16.99, ages 9-12) by Rosemary Wells and illustrated by P.J. Lynch.
Wells stumbled on a 200-word fragment of Willie Lincoln’s recollections of a trip with his dad to Chicago. She was inspired to write about Lincoln from his sons’ perspectives — Willie first and younger Tad after Willie’s death in 1862 at age 11. As the war begins, Lincoln tells Willie of Robert E. Lee’s allegiance to the rebels. Willie asks: “Don’t we have good generals, too, Pa?” Lincoln despairs: “No. All the clever generals are with the South. We’ve got the leftovers.”
“Mr. Lincoln’s Boys” (Penguin, $16.99, ages 6-9) by Staton Rabin and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.
More adventures in the White House with mischievous Willie and Tad, this one set in 1861. The president’s indulgence of his sons is tinged with sadness as he tells an aide: “It makes me feel rested after a hard day’s work, to find some good excuse to save a man’s life.”
“Gettysburg, the Graphic Novel” (HarperCollins, $9.99, ages 9-14) written and illustrated by C.M. Butzer.
With enough text to educate, the decisive, bloody battle for Gettysburg, Pa., is a page-turner for older readers but could be tough for younger ones due to sometimes challenging 1863 vernacular.
“Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker” (National Geographic, $18.95, ages 9-12) by Lynda Jones.
Former slave and successful dressmaker Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley sewed magnificent gowns for first lady Mary Todd Lincoln and became her close friend. But Keckley’s reputation suffered after Lincoln’s assassination, when Mary’s mental state deteriorated.
“Abe Lincoln Loved Animals” (Albert Whitman & Co., $16.99, ages 4-8) by Ellen Jackson and illustrated by Doris Ettlinger.
At a time when hunting often meant dinner, young Abe shoots a wild turkey, then kneels next to the dying bird in despair. All grown up, he was the first president to pardon one of the birds. Always a friend and defender of animals, Lincoln used a gold Buchanan fork to feed his yellow cat Tabby in the White House. His beloved horse Old Bob walked in his funeral procession and his dog Fido greeted mourners
“Abe’s Fish” (Sterling, $15.95, ages 9-12) by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Amy June Bates.
Based on Lincoln’s own boyhood recollections of the War of 1812, Bryant has young Abe catching a mighty fish for his family’s supper, only to give it away to a tattered, weary soldier he meets on the road home.
“Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek” (Random House, $16.99, ages 4-8) by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by John Hendrix.
Without Austin Gollaher, there would have been no President Lincoln. At age 7, as the story goes, Lincoln and his best bud in 1816 Kentucky head for Knob Creek in search of partridges. The water is high and wild after a heavy rain, but the boys decide to cross on a fallen log and Abe falls in. Austin rescues an unconscious Abe and pounds on his back until he comes to. Gollaher lived to a ripe 92 and “Lincoln’s Playmate” is etched on his gravestone.
“Abraham Lincoln Comes Home” (Henry Holt, $16.95, ages 6-10) by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Wendell Minor.
A dad and his son board their buggy and bump along a country road before dawn to join throngs of mourners waiting along railroad tracks for the train carrying Lincoln’s body from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Ill.