Thursday, October 06, 2011

Loving Lincoln

The sweet girl and I have been wending our way through a study of the Civil War. I'm thankful that we had a chance to attend a Civil War day back in July at the historic site near us. That gave her a great preliminary "taste" of the period, especially experiencing the costumes, tents, soldier's kits, period music, etc.

But as usual, it's been books that have carried us through. We've been particularly taken with books about Abraham Lincoln. Even though we've technically finished the unit (we've moved forward into other areas in Story of the World) we keep reading more. And I find myself wanting to read a good adult biography of Lincoln now too. Any suggestions welcome!

Loving to read about Lincoln reminds me, of course, of one of my favorite fictional characters, Emily Webster. Emily of Deep Valley is set in 1912. Emily too loves to read about Lincoln, especially with her grandfather who fought in the Civil War. Maud Hart Lovelace never seems to tire of telling the tale of the brave Minnesota regiment at Gettysburg. Emily and her grandfather end up reading, at the recommendation of her former high school teacher Miss Fowler, "Herndon's Lincoln." If you google that, you'll discover it's an actual biography of Lincoln written in 1888. It's still available today and still garners glowing reviews from most readers. It's also, however, huge. So I've never been sure if it's where I want to start -- although I often find big ol' biographical tomes to be just the right kind of reading for winter. Hmm...a sentiment I probably originally learned from Emily Webster, but have discovered the truth of myself over the years. (Dorothy Kearns Goodwin kept me going one winter with her biography of Roosevelt.)

My list of favorite children's books about Lincoln continues to grow. This week I've added Lincoln Tells a Joke to that list -- Kathleen Krull, Paul Brewer, and illustrator Stacy Innerst's marvelous picture book biography that focuses on Lincoln's humor and down-to-earth manner. It's such a delightful fact that such a deeply profound man, living through such a sobering and heavy time, managed to stay afloat because of laughter.

My very favorite Lincoln book for children may well be Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells. I first read it when it came out in 2009 (and reviewed it here) but this week the sweet girl and I read it together. I cannot get through the final chapter without tears, whether reading silently or aloud. It manages to capture that lighthearted side of Lincoln while also perfectly capturing the heavy emotional weight he carried due to both personal and national tragedies. P.J. Lynch's illustrations in this book are just stunning.

This will likely be our year to do Little Women as a family read-aloud. The book of my childhood. I get shivers of anticipation just thinking about reading it with my husband and daughter. So our Civil War theme will stretch later into the fall and winter. We will probably not start it until around our Thanksgiving trip (if we're able to make that trip this year) as we'll have lots of time in the car that no longer has a functioning CD player. In other words, Mom gets to be the audio book! But I'm glad of it in this case. I love reading aloud, and Jo March's voice...well, it's practically part of my own.


Erin said...

Another big Lincoln lover here too, as well you know! :) He's such an interesting man to read about. Have you ever seen the (I think made-for-TV) movie Tad? I highly recommend it, though I think it's hard to get ahold of; I don't think Netflix has it, for instance. But a really nice movie from the perspective of Tad Lincoln.

I've read a lot of great ones, mostly kids' books; I've heard a lot of good things about Team of Rivals but haven't read it yet. The Boy Who Loved Books is a cool one with a bookworm slant; Abe Lincoln Loved Animals has some interesting anecdotes about his fondness for animals. Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers is a fun story too; it focuses more on Grace Bedell than Lincoln, but it's a nice story about how even a kid can make a big difference with a little determination.

I know there are oodles of others, but those spring to mind right away!

Beth said...

Erin, I should've known you'd have lots to add my to Lincoln list! :) Sharing a birthday with the great Abe as you do. We've really enjoying studying his life and I suspect will pick up some of these books again in February!