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MR. LINCOLN’S WAY by Patricia Polacco


by Patricia Polacco & illustrated by Patricia Polacco

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-23754-2
Publisher: Philomel

Mr. Lincoln, the African-American school principal is considered “just plain cool” and is loved by all the students—except Eugene Esterhause. “Mean Gene” is a bully who uses racial epithets he has learned from his bigoted father. Mr. Lincoln is determined to reach Eugene and affect a change in his thinking and behavior. When he discovers that Eugene has learned a great deal about nature from his kind grandfather, he enlists Eugene’s help in managing the school’s new atrium. They become deeply involved with the birds, especially a pair of mallards that have nested there. Along the way, Mr. Lincoln tries to teach the troubled child about acceptance and respect of all his “little birds,” both feathered and human. When the ducklings hatch, Eugene and Mr. Lincoln lead them safely to the pond where their parents await. Polacco (Betty Doll, p. 264, etc.) is a master at telling moving stories that gently teach lessons of kindness, compassion, and love. This newest work is only slightly less successful. It is certainly visually appealing, with colorful, expressive illustrations that beautifully enhance the text. Personalities and changing moods are vividly presented in Polacco’s signature style. The story, however, seems a bit contrived and derivative. It’s a little of Make Way for Ducklings meets To Sir with Love. In fact, endpapers that show a grown Gene Esterhause, now a teacher, indicating there might be more to the story as indeed the flap copy reveals that Polacco based her setting on a school where the ducks and atrium do exist. With that in mind, it is still a sweet story about learning to respect oneself and others, and is well worth the reader’s attention. (Picture book. 6-9)