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by Maira Kalman & illustrated by Maira Kalman

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-399-24039-3
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Kalman’s narrator sees a man who reminds her of Abraham Lincoln and goes to the library to find out more about the 16th president in this appealingly childlike introduction.

She finds information about Lincoln’s family life, his education, how he dressed, his presidency and his death. She wonders what he thought about, and she offers information about his anti-slavery views and his meetings with Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. Kalman’s artwork is the main attraction here, with appealing naive illustrations done in gouache. Each page offers visual treats in a Matisse-like palette, unusual for a biography of a president, but fun in their own right—images of various people and items related to the president, including pancakes, a vanilla cake, a whistle, apples and, toward the end, an ominous-looking gun facing a rocking chair with a top hat on the floor. In the compression necessary to the picture-book form, however, history is regrettably oversimplified. Lincoln did indeed hate slavery and did say, as the narrator states, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong,” But to assert that “[t]he Northern states (the Union) believed that slavery should be abolished. And so they went to war,” is to offer children a not-quite-accurate version of history adults should be ready to contextualize.

In enjoying the art, readers will pick up some bits of history along the way.

(notes, sources) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)