Kigel’s emphasis on primary sources is refreshing, and he fashions an instructive work that will be especially useful for...

An intimate biography of young Abraham Lincoln from primary sources—i.e., those who knew him in his formative years.

Lincoln’s Illinois law partner, William Herndon, nine years his junior, was the primary and initial biographer of Lincoln after his death, and while thorough, he was guilty of “myth-making.” In this touching work geared toward students, New York City teacher Kigel (Heav'nly Tidings from the Afric Muse: The Grace and Genius of Phillis Wheatley, 2017, etc.) presents the life of the legendary president up to 25, when he first got elected to the Illinois Assembly. The narrative is comprised exclusively of voices who knew the early Lincoln, such as family and acquaintances in his years in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. What emerges from these folksy recollections is a portrait of a young man forged in the harsh reality of frontier life in a family that moved frequently, living in basic log cabins and tending to hardscrabble farms, and where hard labor and little education were the way of life. Moreover, Lincoln was marked early on by the deaths of his newborn baby brother, his mother (when he was 9), and his only sister, who died having her first baby. While known for his height and physical prowess, the young Lincoln was also enamored by books available to the mostly illiterate folks on the frontier, specifically the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, Aesop’s Fables, and Robinson Crusoe. His father was insistent his son get “a real eddication.” Lincoln relied on books as his teachers, and he fashioned himself into an inventive storyteller and great entertainer. He also garnered a reputation as a scrupulously honest man, a reputation begun in his early jobs as a ferryman and store clerk. An early trip to New Orleans by steamboat exposed him to the horrors of the slave trade.

Kigel’s emphasis on primary sources is refreshing, and he fashions an instructive work that will be especially useful for younger readers.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-1730-5

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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