The Magnificent Mischief of Tad Lincoln

Zonderkidz. (Turnabout Tales). Oct. 2023. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780310793823.
Gr 3-5–A biography of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Tad, that introduces the lesser-known historical figure to young readers. Action-filled vignettes from Tad’s childhood, brought to expressive life through Davis’s artwork, illustrate lessons of emotional complexity and eventually mature into more somber moments, like the death of Tad’s brother, Willie, and the moral struggles of leadership Tad witnessed his father go through during the Civil War. The author gracefully uses these anecdotes to make Tad feel relatable to modern readers while grounding him in the necessary context of the boy’s life. While the story is limited to Tad’s childhood, there’s plenty of material for meaty discussion. Plainspoken language will appeal to confident young readers, while evocative word choices, such as “helpless, neighing laughter,” add a little literary flair. An explanatory note at the end describes how Arroyo was especially moved by Abraham Lincoln’s sensitivity and mercy, especially in the granting of pardons, and how he believes Tad’s influence was responsible. This is a heady topic well worth exploring and successfully sets up the story of Tad as an organic launching point for conversations about the humanity of political leadership and what qualities a leader should exemplify.
VERDICT A fun, well-paced, highly readable biography that provides a sophisticated entry point for more nuanced discussions about the complexities of leadership. Recommended.

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