This year I remembered in time to a.) get books before the holiday, not after and b.) get books in time to read them and review them here, so that you have a margin of a couple of days to get them to read with your children, should you so choose. 🙂 I’m getting better!
Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells (yes, of Max and Ruby fame) is a short chapter book that my girls and I devoured in one lunchtime sitting. Divided into three vignettes and written from the perspective of first Willie, then Willie and Tad, and finally Tad alone, this beautifully written story paints a picture of Lincoln as the loving and devoted father he was. The story begins with Willie and and his father traveling to Chicago to the courthouse in June of 1859. It is on this trip that Lincoln announces to Willie that yes, he is running for president. In this chapter we see Lincoln’s easy way with people, as well as some of his idiosyncrasies. The second portion, written from both Tad and Willie’s perspectives, deals with the time immediately following Lincoln’s election to president and the Lincolns’ subsequent move to Washington, D.C. Part of this chapter takes place in the train on the way to D.C.; the other takes place in the White House. We get to see what the Lincoln’s family life might’ve been like, including the relationship between Tad and Willie’s older brother, Robert, and the rest of the family. Willie dies at the beginning of the last section, so it’s told from Tad’s perspective. We see the Lincolns’ deep, deep grief, both individual and corporate. Of course, President Lincoln’s grief is two-pronged; grief over his son and grief over the nation. The book ends with the ending of the Civil War, with Tad by his father’s side. I’ve made this book sound very somber and serious, and there are a great many somber episodes in the story; however, mostly this book paints Lincoln as a doting, jovial father. In the author note at the end of the book, Wells states that “Lincoln’s life may be more thoroughly documented than any other person’s in history” and that every single thing that happens in this story is factual, though the dialogue and cicumstances may be invented. I know that the character of Lincoln has been mythologized down through time, but I think this book portrays him as an imperfect man with some idiosyncrasies and flaws, but one with pure motives who loved his family and his country. I have to mention the illustrations by P.J. Lynch; they are lovely color portraits that look very old-fashioned and depict a warmth in the relationships of the Lincolns. We loved this story. Highly Recommended. (Candlewick, 2009)
Of course, we read several other books about Lincoln, some of which were new to us and some of which I’ve reviewed before. Here are a couple of links to past reviews:
Books about George Washington aren’t quite as easy to come by as ones about Lincoln, but I found a good one in Big George by Anne Rockwell. This story focuses on Washington’s personality and character as the subtitle, How a Shy Boy Became President, indicates. Of course, there are plenty of details of how he actually became president, too. We really, really like this one. One of my favorite parts is how Rockwell points out several times that Washington had a bad temper but learned to control it. This isn’t done in a moralizing way, but rather it makes him seem like a real person. The illustrations in this story, done in gouache and pencil by Matt Phelan, are very expressive, with the slightly messy and muted look that I love. This is an excellent picture biography of Washington’s growing up and adult years. We’ve read a few more book about Washington, and I’m happy to add this one to our list. (Harcourt, 2009)