Great Illustrated Books

Looking at Lincoln

By Maira Kalman

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012
Pages : 32
Suggested Ages: 5-9
ISBN: 9780399240393

Do you know all about Lincoln? This unusual profile, narrated by a curious child and illustrated with gouache paintings as colorful as a 64-count Crayola Crayon package, invites youngsters to find out.

The zealous young researcher visits the library and shares her findings with her peers. She alternates the usual facts, which appear in regular type, with interesting details and child-like speculations rendered in quirky hand-written notes. When she talks about Lincoln's family life, she wonders if "Mary and Abraham had nicknames for each other. Did she call him Linky? Did he call her Little Plumpy?" She reveals that "[h]e wrote many notes and stuffed them inside his hat," then ponders what Lincoln was thinking. Weighty matters such as democracy and freedom, certainly, but maybe he was also "thinking about getting a birthday present for his little son." Among other things, readers will discover that Lincoln's favorite cake was vanilla and that he had a dog named Fido.

Each page includes delightfully bold, bright pictures. In this way, Kalman humanizes a heroic man whose life was cut short after carrying the country through one of its most difficult periods. The spread describing how the country mourned Lincoln's death, painted in mood-changing hues of blue, black and grey, is especially moving. In the last scene, the narrator visits the Lincoln Memorial where she encourages readers to "look into his beautiful eyes. Just look."

The book is made complete by the inclusion of the Gettysburg address printed on the endpages and backmatter consisting of Notes and Sources. Children will see Lincoln in a whole new light and many will be inspired to do their own research.

Reviewed by : JMcD


If you love this book, then try:

Kerley, Barbara. What to Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy! Scholastic, 2008.

Kennedy, Edward. My Senator and Me: A Dog's Eye View of Washington, D.C. Scholastic, 2006.

Tavares, Matt. Henry Aaron's Dream. Candlewick, 2010.

Rappaport, Doreen. Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hyperion Books, 2001.

Critics have said

The inclusion of less well known facts about Lincoln and a good bibliography make this book a nice addition to an elementary school library.
With a breezy conversational style, thick lines, and vivid bulky colors, Kalman provides a unique introduction to our 16th president.
School Library Journal