Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Abraham Book Poster Image
Powerful bio of Abraham Lincoln uses his own words.

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Kids say

age 17+
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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Bio of Lincoln. Info on his childhood, the family's poverty, his hard work, and various jobs he held. Some info on the Civil War and the issue of slavery. Quotes from Lincoln's own speeches and writing incorporated into the text. The full text of the Gettysburg Address included at end. Art conveys period detail.

Positive Messages

It's important to have "good morals" in your work and to stand up for what's right, even when difficult. Value of hard work. Value of books and reading and study. Slavery is inherently wrong. The Declaration of Independence applies to all people, black and white.  A "house divided" cannot stand. "Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lincoln was born in humble circumstances but worked hard. He loved to read and tried to learn as much as he could, despite a lack of formal schooling. He earned the name "Honest Abe" because he practiced honesty in his work as a lawyer. He believed in freedom and equality for all citizens, black and white. He worked to end slavery.

Violence & Scariness

Picture of battle scene from Civil War. Soldiers shooting and getting shot.


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.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written bySpamleynecrevis July 30, 2020

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?

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