Monday, January 22, 2018

That's Abe! Long, Tall Lincoln by Jennifer Dussling

Abraham Lincoln said of himself: "I am not a pretty man."

When accused by a partisan of being two-faced, the lanky, craggy-faced president joked, "If I had two faces, do you think I'd be wearing this one?"

Jennifer Dussling's new Long, Tall Lincoln (I Can Read Level 2) (Harper, 2017) makes the most of Abe Lincoln's colorful boyhood adventures to appeal to young readers, as well as the true story of a poor boy who, despite only a few months of schoolroom time per year, read any book he could get his hands on, not an easy thing in frontier Kentucky and Illinois.

The boy Lincoln was drawn to language, mimicking "stump speakers" who passed through the countryside. He even managed to educate himself far beyond the average child, even "reading law" in an attorney's office to become a lawyer himself, and an honest one to boot, living up to the story that he walked miles to reimburse a woman he'd overcharged as a store clerk.

Author Dussling not only portrays something of Lincoln's growing-up years, but also describes his affection for his young boys, along with their pets and rowdy ways, giving young readers an idea of what being a child their age must have been like in the White House in the sober days of the Civil War. She even includes the letter from a young follower named Grace, whose suggestions for Lincoln led him to grow his beard, advising "All the ladies love whiskers."

In those years Lincoln dealt daily with war planning and what to do about slaves in the Southern states, resulting in the Emancipation Proclamation, of which he said,

"If my name goes into history, it will be for this act.

This one in Harper's 60-year-old I-Can-Read series is great for primary-grade classroom libraries and for those customary February Presidents Day book reports--inexpensive, packed with facts and humorous tales of the young Abe Lincoln and the president who always had time for his harum-scarum boys, and with lots of details, including period photos and a Lincoln timeline for young independent readers in search of actual historic information for those reports, speeches, and costumed parades built around the civil holiday.

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