Smith transcends clichés to present a fresh and intimate glimpse of the 16th president.
Opening panels, rendered digitally and in oil and ink, hone in on three presidential pooches that wouldn’t “enter THAT room” in the White House. By the time present-day Quincy goes AWOL from her tour to discover a pale man in a stovepipe hat who walks through walls, there have been enough subsequent clues that readers will understand the dogs’ hesitation. The sensitive African-American protagonist perceives that Lincoln is haunted by unfinished business. While sharing groan-inducing jokes and flying over monuments, farms and the moon, the two discuss American progress. Quincy offers encouraging words on the union of the states and equality, but about fighting, she observes, “We’re still working on that one.” They share recurring dreams; Lincoln’s is about a “ship sailing rapidly for some shore I know not where.” A brief (although undocumented) afterword says this is so. The palette is appropriately somber, but touches like the striking red roses that fill the foreground of the moonlit mansion’s garden mitigate the darkness. Types of varying sizes and weights mimic those found in period newspapers and political posters. The final spread features Quincy’s dream: fireworks flaring, a smiling president sails into the light.
An adroit blend of humor, compassion and quiet optimism reflects the statesman’s character and make this a first choice for February or anytime. (Picture book. 5-8)