Wells, Rosemary. 2009. LINCOLN AND HIS BOYS. Ill. by P.J. Lynch. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 9780763637231[Suggested Grade Levels 3- 7]
Told in three parts by Lincoln’s sons, Lincoln the father is highlighted, rather than Lincoln the President. Part one is Willie’s recounting of a train trip he took with his father to Chicago. There they meet “spiffed-up men with soft hands” to discuss a bid for the Presidency. Part two is narrated by Willie after the family is in the White House with Tad’s voice chiming in about the looming Civil War. The final section is told entirely from Tad’s point of view, as he sadly describes his parents’ depression following Willie’s sickness and death.
Throughout the book, readers learn of the Lincoln family through the eyes of the children, an appealing format for middle-grade readers. Short dialogue and Wells’ narrative style reaches those that might not otherwise read a historically based piece. Beautiful portrait-style paintings appear often enough to support the text, and they depict Lincoln both as playful father and contemplative leader. A tidy author’s note explains the motivation for the story, and verifies that although the details are factual, the dialogue is contrived. Overall, this book fits nicely between the light picture book stories about Lincoln and the thick information-rich ones.
While researching the Civil War, Wells found a 200-word essay by Willie Lincoln that inspired this story. Define primary documents for children, and analyze why they are considered the most accurate source for research. Display artifacts and primary documents, and help children draw conclusions from them.
More books about Lincoln’s personal life:
Fleming, Candace. THE LINCOLNS: A SCRAPBOOK LOOK AT ABRAHAM AND MARY. ISBN 9780374836183
Freedman, Russell. LINCOLN: A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY. ISBN 9780899193809
Ragin, Staton. MR. LINCOLN’S BOYS. ISBN 9780670061693
By Rebecca S. McKee