November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Pick of the Day: Abe Lincoln’s Dream

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white house, lincoln flying over itSMITH, Lane. Abe Lincoln’s Dream. illus. by author. 32p. Roaring Brook. 2012. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-608-4.
Gr 2-5
–A picture book that transforms the 16th president from a seemingly austere, severe figure into a sympathetic character. A young African American girl named Quincy encounters the ghost of Abe Lincoln on a school tour of the White House. He tells the child about a recurring dream in which he is sailing a ship on a stormy sea, unsure of where he’s heading. (The afterword explains that the president reported having this nightmare several times, including the evening before his assassination.) In an attempt to cheer him, Quincy reassures Lincoln that the state of the nation has vastly improved since his presidency, and the two take flight on a whirlwind tour. Dynamic spreads of the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, and an American flag planted on the Moon–digitally rendered in oil painting and pen-and-ink–reflect Quincy’s assertion that “‘overall the founding fathers would be proud of our progress.’” The dark palette and parchmentlike background give the book a traditional feel, but Smith adds a sense of whimsy through his creative use of fonts and the witty tone of the narrative. Despite the cartoonish style, Lincoln is fully humanized: visible pen marks that indicate wrinkles and bags under his eyes suggest his anguish over the state of the union, while his penchant for corny jokes (“‘Ghosts are no good at telling fibs….You can see right through them’”) will endear him to readers. Pair this picture book with Maira Kalman’s Looking at Lincoln (Penguin, 2012) to give students a portrait of the man that transcends mere facts.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal



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