Monday, March 23, 2009

A little Lincoln anyone?

The Obama presidency along with the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth have again brought the 16th president to the forefront of the American mind.  The tall, often sad looking, care-worn lawyer from Illinois was perhaps America's greatest President. 
Lincoln's Gettysburg address held in such reverence today for it's simple eloquence and memorized by school children across the US was not the keynote address for the dedication of the cemetary at the Pennsylvania battlefield. The President was given two minutes following the main speaker who gave a two hour oration. Lincoln's brief words, less than two minutes,  have echoed through the years thanks to newspapers printing the remarks following 
the dedication. While his actual speech may not have been stirring or memorable, the words themselves in printed form became a part of America's historical memory and social conscience. Few school children have not learned a portion of the piece that begins..."Four score and seven years ago..". 

It seems appropriate that during this bicentennial year so many new Lincoln related books should make their debut (and be added to the hundreds already in print).  There seems to be one for every type of reader from the youngest of children to the most esoteric non-fiction fan. 
Here are a few  recommendations:
for children if you've ever seen a book illustrated by Kadir Nelson you'll understand why this one is a top choice :
Abe's Honest Words: The Life Of Abraham Lincoln
Written by Doreen Rappaport (remember her wonderful MLK  book  Martin's Big Words?) Well this one captures Lincoln's thirst for knowledge, his conscience, his struggle to gain an education and his will to succeed through many hardships. 

If youngsters around your house ask if a president ever reads letters they  
 write to the occupant of the Oval Office, then an older book called Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers, based on a true story will reassure them that indeed someone at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is paying attention to America's children.   Eleven year old Grace Bedell wrote to the president and suggested that he grow a beard - the beard that is now part of his historic image. The original letter is included with the book by Karen Winnick that so beautifully tells the story of Grace and her Mr. Lincoln. A must read for kids and parents alike.

If you enjoy poetry and would like to discover some of Lincoln's own poems as well as ones written about him such as Walt Whitman's O' Captain My Captain," or Vachel Lindsays' "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight," check out this link.