President’s Day celebrates, in part, the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. There have been loads of books for kids published about Abraham Lincoln, in particular, so in honor of his recent birthday and today’s President’s Day, here are some solid reads about Honest Abe. I’ve given the first title more description since it’s just out this spring and won’t be as well known. (For a couple of other Lincoln books, see Emily’s post at Redeemed Reader.)
Lincoln’s Grave Robbers
Hitting store shelves this spring is Sheinkin’s latest fascinating peak into history (Sheinkin is author of the recent heavily-awarded Bomb). True to Sheinkin’s reputation, Lincoln’s Grave Robbers is fast-paced and reveals some little remembered historical facts along with a fantastic attempt by some men to actually steal Lincoln’s bones! Crazy.
The story opens with an examination of the widespread counterfeit operations going on during the second half of the 19th century (it’s amazing how much money in circulation was fake!!). Did you know the Secret Service was started for the specific purpose of tracking down counterfeit money folks (from the engravers to those passing it in the street). When a highly skilled engraver gets put behind bars, the folks who depended on his next-to-impossible-to-detect counterfeit bills panic. What can they do to get him back? I know! Steal Lincoln’s bones! That will teach that mean government who’s boss. They don’t put it in those words, but that’s the sentiment behind this desperate plot to steal Lincoln’s bones and essentially demand the engraver in return for the bones. Thanks to a “rover” (a “mole” in today’s parlance), their plot is hindered–but the Secret Service men fail to capture the bad guys! A series of small things-gone-wrong drags the story out, but justice is finally served.
Kids will enjoy this peak into a part of history often left out of the history books. Sheinkin’s gift for narration keeps the story moving, and he continues his usual well-balanced musings (wondering who’s “fault” some things are, for instance). He also does an excellent job of sprinkling in historical slang without making the book obscure. All in all, a fun and informative read. Recommended for 4th grade and up (this one is not as complex as Bomb).
Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: the Story Behind an American Friendship
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
Thoughtfully reviewed by Janie over at Redeemed Reader, this book is essentially a dual biography from a well known and awarded author. Freedman is no stranger to Lincoln, and his name will come up in this list again! Worth checking out for those middle grades students.
Lincoln: a Photobiography
Sandpiper, 1989 (originally published 1987)
Freedman’s earlier biography of Lincoln was a landmark book in children’s publishing. His blend of photography with text was remarkable, and it’s one of the few nonfiction titles to ever win a Newbery Medal (this year, 2013, Sheinkin’s Bomb garnered an honor). Comprehensive, well documented, this book is a standard among biographies for the middle grades set.
Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
Another noteworthy book about Lincoln that also was a landmark book in terms of awards–one of the first Caldecott winners and in color! The D’Aulaires are standards in the field for children’s biographies and their adaptations of things like the Greek Myths for children. This biography is accessible to elementary school children, does a nice job of bringing Lincoln’s character (including his funny side) to life, and gives a thorough look at Lincoln’s childhood and young adulthood.