Abe Lincoln's Dream

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Abe Lincoln's Dream Book Poster Image
Girl's journey with Lincoln's ghost applauds U.S. progress.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Abe Lincoln's Dream doesn't provide specific information about Lincoln, exactly, but its dreamy approach will inevitably spur discussion about the president and his legacy. 

Positive Messages

This is a hopeful ghost story inspiring optimism. Quincy and Lincoln's journey is a reminder that the America is still a work in progress. There's still much to be done, but there's good reason to celebrate how far the country has come -- and to look forward to what's ahead.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Quincy sees Lincoln looking confused and upset and wants to help him. She comforts him and tries to assuage his worries. Lincoln is a mournful ghost, burdened by the thought that he had responsibilities he didn't meet.

Violence & Scariness

The tone is comforting, not frightening, but there's no getting around the fact that the central character is the ghost of a president who died prematurely. One page, addressing conflict, shows a chair tossed through a window of the Capitol.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Abe Lincoln's Dream, by Lane Smith, the author of Grandpa Green, is best appreciated by readers who know a little bit about the 16th president. If your child isn't aware of the trials and tribulations of Lincoln's time, you may want to talk about him before reading the book, or discuss his legacy afterward and then read it through again. It also might be helpful to first read the afterword, which speaks of the dream Lincoln reportedly had the night before he was killed and explains about the presidential pets that regarded the Lincoln Bedroom oddly. Parents should be prepared for questions about the Civil War, slavery, and Lincoln's assassination.


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What's the story?

On a tour of the White House, a young schoolgirl named Quincy approaches a tall, sad-looking figure and asks if he's lost. \"I don’t think so,\" he answers, and walks through a wall. Lincoln's ghost explains that he's haunted by a dream that he's sailing to an unknown destination, and he frets over all the work left undone in 1865. Taking his hand, Quincy leads him on a floating tour of the United States to reassure him how much has changed for better: The states are united and equality for all is \"getting better all the time.\" As for fighting and conflict: \"We’re still working on that one,\" Quincy acknowledges, watching a chair hurled through a window of the Capitol. She shows him one of the American flags on the moon, and Lincoln lets out a giddy \"Three cheers and ballyhoo!\"



Is it any good?

Author and illustrator Lane Smith has a well-earned reputation for wonderfully risky books. ABE LINCOLN'S DREAM doesn’t have the edgy humor found in some of Smith's other works, but it has a different kind of daring: It's so dreamy, it might float over the heads of young readers, much like Lincoln sails over America in its pages. But this invites adults reading with children to help provide context, providing opportunities to reflect the book's themes and explore details. Smith captures both Lincoln's famed melancholy and his wit. Lincoln's questions to Quincy bore into some of the central themes of American history, providing a springboard to learn more.

Smith and his wife, designer Molly Leach, have created another beautiful book. The muted palette, antique textures, and typography evoke 19th century publications and U.S. currency. The publisher's website offers an activity guide for children to share dreams and reflect on characteristics of a good president.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the future. Ask children what they think America will be like when they're grown up, or when their grandchildren are grown up.

  • How does this picture of Abe Lincoln compare with what you've heard about him at school or in other books and movies? 

  • Choose another person from the past -- perhaps an ancestor, or another historical figure. What would you want that person to know about how the world has changed?

Book details

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For kids who love history and picture books

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