Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Restless Spirit: Abraham Lincoln's Dream by Lane Smith

"Are the states united?" Abraham Lincoln asked.

"Yes! That worked out fine!"

"And equality for all?" he asked.

"That's workig out, too. It's getting better all the time "

When little Quincy strays from her class tour of the White House, she opens an intriguing door and finds a tall man in a stovepipe hat bending over a copy of the Gettysburg Address. It's got to be the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, and he looks troubled, despite the joke he tells Quincy to put her at ease.

"Ghosts are no good at telling fibs," he confessed. "You can see right through them."

Finally, he confesses that he can't rest because of a troubling dream--a dream in which he sees himself upon a small ship, tossed by waves and heading for a rocky shore. Quincy understands, and taking his hand, she leads him outside, where, as the two float over the land together, Lincoln confesses that he is deeply worried about the country's future. Quincy tries to reassure him that some of his dreams have come true, and as for the rest...

"And Man?" Abe asked. "Does he no longer fuss 'n' fight with his fellow man?"

"We're still working on that one!" said Quincy.

Lane Smith's latest, Abe Lincoln's Dream (Roaring Brook Press, 2012) is pure Lane Smithery, subtle, sophisticated, yet kid-pleasing. However, this should not be the first book a child encounters about Abraham Lincoln. It presupposes some prior knowledge about the timeline, causes and effects of the Civil War, and some basic Lincoln lore, including the legend about White House pets--Roosevelt's Fala, Nixon's Yuki, Reagan's Rex--refusing to enter the supposedly haunted Lincoln bedroom with which Smith begins his book. But for those kids who know the basics and have heard some of Lincoln's most famed quotations, this new one is a wonderful book to open up the Lincoln presidency and legend to their place in history and in our present. Lane ends joyfully with Lincoln's understated exclamation when Quincy shows him the Stars and Stripes planted on the moon.

"My stars!! We've come a long way!"

Amen, Abe. We've come way too far to give up now!

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