|written by Candace Fleming
Here are the extraordinary lives of Abraham and Mary, from their disparate childhoods and tumultuous courtship, through the agony of the Civil War, to the loss of three of their children, and finally their own tragic deaths.
Readers can find Mary’s recipe for Abraham’s favorite cake—and bake it themselves; hear what Abraham looked like as a toddler; see a photo of the Lincolns’ dog; discover that the Lincoln children kept goats at the White House; see the Emancipation Proclamation written in Lincoln’s own hand.
Perfect for reluctant readers as well as history lovers, The Lincolns provides a living breathing portrait of a man, a woman, and a country.
Candace Fleming, award-winning author of Ben Franklin's Almanac and Our Eleanor, has created a biography of the Lincolns unlike any other—a scrapbook history that draws on photographs, letters, engravings, and even cartoons to form an enthralling museum on these pages.
Awards and Honors
ALA Notable Books 2009
Booklist Editors' Choice
Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Nonfiction 2009
Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for Nonfiction 2009, Bank Street School of Education
Horn Book Best Book
IRA Teachers' Choices
Kirkus Reviews Best Book for Young Adults
Los Angeles Times Literary Book Prize 2009, Finalist
NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book
New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
School Library Journal Best Book
Read the Reviews
Using the same innovative scrapbook format employed in Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003) and Our Eleanor (2005), Fleming offers another standout biographical title, this time twining accounts of two lives—Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln—into one fascinating whole. On spreads that combine well-chosen visuals with blocks of headlined text, Fleming gives a full, birth-to-death view of the “inextricably bound” Lincolns. Once again, Fleming humanizes her subjects and offers a broader perspective on their times with cleverly juxtaposed facts, anecdotes, and images. One page, for example, combines an 1861 map of the divided U.S. with detailed descriptions of what the new president and First Lady each tackled the day after Lincoln’s inauguration (Fort Sumter and securing a dressmaker, respectively). Although the reproductions are often small and dark, the intriguing visual mix will easily draw readers and browsers alike. Included are paintings and etchings of heartrending historical events, church documents, handwritten notes, and political cartoons. Fleming’s writing, filled with quotes and personal details, is just as lively as the assortment of images, and an extensive time line, suggested resources, and source notes round out the text. Starting with her personal introduction, this exemplary resource will prompt readers to consider how an individual’s life story, and a country’s history, are constructed.
Gr 6 Up–What did this backwoods boy and this bluegrass girl have in common? Using her signature scrapbook approach, Fleming lays out the answer in a biography that gives equal emphasis to Abraham and Mary Lincoln for an insightful portrait of their lives. Her scholarship over five years pays off with a rich account that is personal and concrete. She recounts Mary’s early life as a privileged–but motherless–child, her ambitions for her husband, and her role as “first lady” (a term originally coined for her). Large and small details are juxtaposed with specifics about Lincoln and broadened by Mary’s significance. For example, a political decision was made regarding her attendance at the debates; Lincoln wanted to preserve his “common man” image rather than show off his refined and educated wife. Unlike most biographies, which conclude with Lincoln’s death, this one follows Mary’s story to the end, detailing Robert Todd’s role in her commitment to an insane asylum, Tad’s death, and her own demise. Presented in period typefaces, the boxed bits of text, sidebars, and numerous running heads and subheads add detail. From portraits to pets, the book contains a wide variety of graphics, including written and visual primary documents that enrich every spread. Notes, resources, and source notes are exemplary. It’s hard to imagine a more engaging or well-told biography of the Lincolns.
Fleming’s five-year immersion in letters, diaries, newspapers, speeches and other primary documents yields a monumental visual chronicle of Abraham and Mary Lincoln and their times. The visuals range from the essential to the mundane—portraits, maps, battlefield scenes, political cartoons, dress patterns, a stovepipe hat and measurements for a pair of boots—and, along with clear writing and thematic organization, leave readers “feeling as if you have just visited old friends.” Redressing a wrong committed by many histories for young readers, Mary Lincoln is portrayed here as a multidimensional woman of intelligence and social conscience, and the issue of slavery is clearly and concisely handled. The scrapbook technique, used previously in Our Eleanor (2005) and Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003), remains fresh and lively, a great way to provide a huge amount of information in a format that invites both browsing and in-depth study. Extensive end notes round out an impressive volume. (bibliography, websites, a note on research, picture credits, index) (Nonfiction10-14)
Fleming has already applied her scrapbook approach to biographies of Benjamin Franklin (Ben Franklin’s Almanac, rev. 9/03) and Eleanor Roosevelt (Our Eleanor, rev. 11/05); now she turns her attention to Abraham and Mary Lincoln. There are several clear advantages to this thematic, nonlinear treatment: the book is chock full of reproductions of primary sources, both textual and visual; it features an abundant supply of the sort of interesting anecdotes that are not so easily shoehorned into a more straightforward narrative; and it is equally inviting as reference material, casual browsing, or pleasure reading. Moreover, the dual biography is an inspired choice here. By giving Mary’s often neglected story equal weight, Fleming is able to compare and contrast the president with his first lady, giving us not only greater insight into each of them but also a fuller picture of the world in which they lived. “They were like two pine trees that had grown so close their roots were forever intertwined.” They are also forever intertwined with the American story, a connection this excellent biography will reinforce for young readers. Notes, sources, timeline, and index are appended. j.h.