A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Abraham is a biography of Abraham Lincoln written by Frank Keating, former Republican Governor of Oklahoma. The book's part of a Mount Rushmore Presidential series, following books on George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt. It's narrated in the first person, as if Lincoln's telling his own story, and Keating also weaves in quotes from Lincoln's speeches. The book focuses on Lincoln's impoverished childhood, his work as a lawyer, and his decision to work to abolish slavery. Beautiful oil paintings by Mike Wimmer make Lincoln's hardscrabble childhood come alive, and depict the country at war. Closing with the text of the Gettysburg Address, the book introduces kids to the courage and commitment of the 16th U.S. president.
What's the story?
ABRAHAM opens with a list of Lincoln's major accomplishments, then reels back to his humble childhood. Born in a one-room, dirt-floor Kentucky cabin, he wore hand-spun clothing, ate wild game shot by his father, and went barefoot most of the year. Though he had less then a year of formal schooling, Lincoln loved to read and became a lawyer by determination and self-study. He married, started a family, and entered politics, taking a strong stance against slavery, the major issue of the day, and presided as president during the Civil War. "I was determined to secure freedom for others and to assure the union of our states." The book ends before his assassination, with the slaves freed and the Union intact.
Is it any good?
This biography of Abraham Lincoln is narrated in the first person as if by Lincoln himself, giving it an immediacy that makes the man and his story come alive for young readers. Author Frank Keating also adds authenticity by weaving in actual quotes. The text is strongest when dealing with Lincoln's childhood and humble roots, and becomes slightly less easy to follow when making more abstract arguments against slavery and for the preservation of the Union. Kids who are fuzzy on the Civil War may need additional information.
Mike Wimmer's rich oil paintings look like museum-quality period art, and play liberally with light -- from a lone cabin window or a lantern. Young Abe looks relatably human curled up reading a book by the warm flicker of the hearth, or padding barefoot down a path as sunlight filters through golden autumn leaves. Later pictures are more formal, with Lincoln as a statesman or in depicting a battle scene. A moving closing picture shows a medley of faces, soldiers in both blue uniforms and gray, with Harriet Tubman at the center, suggesting the uneasy divisions that continue to haunt the United States.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the use of first person narration in Abraham. Why do you think the author chose to use Abraham Lincoln's own voice to tell the story?
Why do you think the author included the passages in quotes, which are Lincoln's own words from the time? Do they fit with the rest of the text?
In the art at the end of the story, do you recognize another famous face from the history of that time? Why do you think the illustrator put her at the center? And why do you think he included people from both sides of the Civil War? What message does that send?
- Author: Frank Keating
- Illustrator: Mike Wimmer
- Genre: Picture Book
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, History
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
- Publication date: January 3, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 6 - 9
- Number of pages: 32
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 13, 2017
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