Monday, October 20, 2008

Nonfiction Monday: New Books About Abraham Lincoln

With Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday coming up in February, there is certainly no shortage of books being published about the president. Here are two picture books that have recently been released that would make great classroom resources.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); 1st edition (September 30, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805082646
ISBN-13: 978-0805082647

First up is Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship written by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier. This picture begins in 1865 at Lincoln's reception for his second inauguration. He's anxiously awaiting the arrival of his friend, Frederick Douglass. The story then goes into both Douglass's and Lincoln's past, showing the parallels between the two, their political relationship, and a brief history of the onset of the Civil War. It ends as Lincoln finally finds Douglass at the reception and they have a brief conversation about the nation's future.

The story is hopeful and inspirational and provides just enough information to keep kids engaged, but the AMAZING illustrations are what make this book stand out. Bryan Collier uses cut-paper collages to illustrate the story. In one section of the story, a younger Lincoln is traveling down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, a trip that according to the book, "opened his eyes to the world around him." We see a young, beardless Lincoln gripping a picket fence, and faces of enslaved African Americans are superimposed in the trees. In another section, a four-page fold out shows an intense Civil War battle in action.

Abraham Lincoln Comes Home written by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Wendell Minor

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (August 5, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805075291
ISBN-13: 978-0805075298

Another new book also published by Henry Holt tells a different story about Lincoln, the story of his final train ride home to Springfield, Illinois after his assassination. In the story, Luke, a young boy, and his father are riding in a carriage in the very early morning to watch the train that is carrying Lincoln's body pass by. As Luke and his father reach their destination and join up with all of the other mourners, Luke observes the train as it approaches and passes by along with the emotional reaction to the president's death. At the end of the book is a brief afterward that describes Lincoln's assassination and his train ride home. There's also a page full of "Interesting Facts About the Lincoln Funeral Train."

While this book tells the story of a fictional person, the event it describes really happened. Lincoln was a well-loved president by many many people, and the book simply sets out to show this from a young boy's point of view. It doesn't try to sway your opinion about Lincoln or delve into politics. The gouache watercolor illustrations are rendered in deep, golden tones that not only depict the prairie but give the book a somber, "old-timey" feel.

I like the fact that both books have a narrow and specific focus instead of the typical fact-filled and boring biographies kids are used to seeing. Both books are thought-provoking and contain information that will spark discussion.

Head on over to Picture Book of the Day for more Nonfiction Monday selections!


  1. I recently read "Abraham Lincoln Comes Home" in my Visual Arts for Children class and I loved it - beautiful illustrations.

  2. As a teenager (approx. 1960) I read a book about Abraham Lincoln (fictional?) which was great. I can't remember the name of the book, but I seem to remember the title was one word. The book covered his home life in Springfield, Ill. I would like to read this book again, but have not been abe to find it. Can you recommend a web site to research this? Sandy, Granbury, TX