Monday, December 10, 2012

Looking At Lincoln

Horn Book (January/February, 2012)

A young girl walking through a park passes a Lincoln look-alike and begins to wonder about our sixteenth president. "Who was he?" she asks herself. Being a clever girl, she goes to the library (a van Gogh-inspired room) to find out. She discovers facts but gets "lost in the photos of his unusual face. I stared at one. I could look at him forever." Never pedantic, but through a natural structure that follows the young narrator's own thought processes, the narrative lists some basic facts she discovers about Lincoln's life and then moves to her childlike musings, printed in a more casual font, that personalize this account. "I wonder if Mary and Abraham had nicknames for each other. Did she call him Linky? Did he call her Little Plumpy? Maybe." Other bits of Lincoln lore (objects such as Mary's vanilla cake and Lincoln's top hat) inspire further questions. The story gradually becomes more sophisticated, introducing war and slavery, for example, and these musings, still interspersed with questions, conclude with Lincoln's death. A gloomy funeral scene with the riderless horse is depicted in grays and blacks, a sobering, even startling, note among the profusion of bright gouache illustrations that are as colorful as springtime in Arles. Additional back matter extends the text, but it is the narrator's concluding words as she faces the Lincoln Memorial that best encourages historical examination: "Look into his beautiful eyes. Just look." betty carter

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