75th Anniversary Edition
Not since 1957 have d'Aulaire fans been able to enjoy the beauty of the stone lithographic work that earned these beloved author-artists the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1940. Now, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of their Caldecott Medal award, and marking a century and a half of emancipation, readers young and old will delight in this biography of America's most beloved President. Beautiful Feet Books worked with Timothy Young, curator of Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Collection at Yale University Library, to restore the original art through brand new reproductions of the 1939 lithographic proofs.
This is not a fair and accurate children's biography of Abraham Lincoln. If that's what you're looking for, stop here and instead go get Russell Freedman's excellent Lincoln: A Photobiography. However, those of you not overly concerned with bias or strict historical accuracy may find much to like about this 1939 Caldecott medalist. This is a d'Aulaire picture book, which means the artwork (done in detailed lithographs) is stunning, and the prose is gentle, readable, and humorous. This book as a whole is charming and engaging, and in most ways appropriate for younger children.
Still, be aware that Abraham Lincoln is treated more like a folk hero than a historical figure. The d'Aulaires navigate Lincoln's life carefully, emphasizing the good parts and minimizing or ignoring his flaws and other negative aspects (including his assasination, which the book skips altogether.) The causes of both the Black Hawk War and the Civil War are majorly simplified. And the d'Aulaire's depictions of Indians and black slaves are a product of their time—as is their use of the word "Negro."
This book won the Caldecott medal in 1940, when the d'Aulaire's native Europe was in turmoil. The d'Aulaires believed they had a unique perspective on American history and this translates into their biography. To them Abraham Lincoln wasn't just the sixteenth president of the United States. He was a legendary figure, one who stood for justice in the face of injustice, who stood for unity and peace in the face of division and strife. He was in some ways a projection of the couple's hopes for their own beloved countries. As such, this biography is not so much about Lincoln the man. It is about Lincoln, the symbol of freedom.
For further reading on the sixteenth president of the US, see Caleb Crossman's category description for Abraham Lincoln on our website.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
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