Looking at Lincoln
Written and illustrated by Maira Kalman
After seeing a man who reminds her of Abraham Lincoln, a young girl sets out to discover who the sixteenth president of the United States really was. She goes to the library, where she is fascinated by a “photo of his beautiful face.” The narrator goes on to discover facts about Lincoln’s early life, family, and political career. She learns about slavery, the Civil War, and Lincoln’s tragic death.
Throughout the story, she dreams about Lincoln’s personal life as well. She discovers that he loved to eat apples and always kept one on his desk, and that he had a dog named Fido. She wonders if Lincoln’s wife baked his favorite cake or whether Lincoln stopped thinking about serious things and concentrated on what to buy his son for his birthday. The story ends with our narrator visiting the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. and urging readers to “look into his beautiful eyes. Just look.”
I was captivated by this picture book. The language is simple enough for the comprehension skills of a second-grader, but the images and phrasing go far beyond basic facts presented in a history text. Through her words and pictures, Kalman brings Lincoln to life not just as a political figure but as a real man with a family and a sense of fun. The words, illustrations, and playful typeface all work together to make this an appealing picture book that just happens to contain important information about American history. A page of Notes in the back of the book provides more facts about Lincoln and other references in the text, and the book ends with a list of sources. Looking at Lincoln is a superb addition to a history reading list and is sure to captivate the imaginations of readers and make them think about the man behind the history.