Following Theodore (2006) and George (2012), Keating adds a new face to the Mount Rushmore series.
In a first-person narrative that incorporates many quotations of his own words, the 16th president looks back on his life and accomplishments and presents himself glowingly in the process. He’s Honest Abe, liberator of slaves, savior of the union, protector of the Constitution. There’s no room here for or even a hint at complex issues and moral decisions; the icon is paramount. Wimmer’s oil-on-canvas paintings are the star, with stately full-page images complementing the text, though they too elide complexity. A slave-auction image feels rather like an exercise in illustrating period dress (fashionable white men and auctioneer), with only a dangling shackle to indicate the enslaved human foregrounded but placed discreetly to the side, back to readers. The dramatic Civil War image is reminiscent of Mort Kunstler’s famous war scenes in drama and palette. The narrative and the many quotations are an uneasy mix, the sometimes-stately tone of speech excerpts jarring with Keating’s straightforward narrative voice, and quotations sometimes overwhelm the text. Backmatter includes the text of “The Gettysburg Address” and a brief bibliography of scholarly works but no guide to the many fine works on the subject for young readers.
Like the faces on Mount Rushmore, this entry in the series provides a face but falls short on substance. (Picture book/biography. 6-9)