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by Ann Turner & illustrated by Wendell Minor

Age Range: 6 - 10

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-027577-4
Publisher: HarperCollins

This handsome and genuinely appealing collaboration transcends the usual picture-book biography genre. The author and artist impressively succeed in taking the well-known details of this oh-so-familiar life and shaping them into an accessible, affecting personal story. Experienced historical novelist Turner (Dakota Dugout, 1985) chose to tell this remembrance in the imagined voice of Lincoln, setting it on the evening of April 14, 1865, just before he and wife Mary are about to leave for the theatre. Historians have made much of Lincoln’s moodiness and melancholy at this moment in time; Turner reflects that conventional wisdom yet she does not make this a maudlin or sappily sentimental tale. Lincoln’s voice is simple and steadying. In spare, restrained prose, he recounts his life story in a voice that resonates with an undertone of grief and loss. The effect is simple, fresh, and inspiring. Minor (who previously collaborated with Turner on the haunting 1997 Shaker Hearts) is a prolific illustrator who has risen to the challenge of refreshing and refashioning time- and shop-worn events and images. His handsome and characteristically detailed acrylic paintings are perfectly pitched to Turner’s tone, which is increasingly somber. Minor also doubled as the book’s designer and makes effective use of white space, employs clean-edged line borders in red and white, and even includes occasional ghost images of Lincoln’s distinctive signature. In the book’s well-developed and inclusive “historical note,” Turner reflects on Lincoln’s pivotal role in the nation’s history. Finally, she asserts that Lincoln’s “words echo down the years to us, calling to us, reminding us of what it means to lead an ethical and courageous life.” Memorable. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)