Friday, February 17, 2012

Abe's Honest Words, by Doreen Rappaport and Kadir Nelson (ages 7 - 11)

As our country celebrates President's Day, I would love to share my favorite book about Abraham Lincoln: Abe's Honest Words, by Doreen Rappaport and Kadir Nelson. This stirring book captures the span of Lincoln's life, the strength of his words and convictions, and the dignity in his stance - all in a way that a child just growing into an awareness of our nation's history can grasp. It is a beautiful book, one that you'll want to have at home to come back to again and again.
Abe's Honest Words
The Life of Abraham Lincoln
by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by Kadir Nelson
NY: Hyperion / Disney, 2008
ages 7 - 11
available at your local library, bookstore or on Amazon
look inside this book at Kadir Nelson's site
Starting with Lincoln's humble beginnings, Rappaport traces his journey from the rural slave state of Kentucky to the statehouse in Illinois, to the nation's capital. Kadir Nelson's illustrations draw immediate attention and make this a wonderful book to read aloud to younger children. He expresses so much of Lincoln's character, whether it's as a determined lawyer working late into the night by candlelight, or looking up at him as he gives the Gettysburg address. Nelson's illustrations complement Rappaport's text on each page, conveying the scene Lincoln describes seeing slaves chained as he worked along the Mississippi River, or the steely gray scene of the U.S. Capitol during Lincoln's second inaugural address.

On each page, Rappaport presents a straightforward account of Lincoln's life, told in clear, direct prose, and then in a bold, slightly scripted font, she shares quotes from Lincoln's own words. This juxtaposition works well, making this both an excellent book to read aloud to a 2nd or 3rd grader or an introductory biography for an older student. For example, Rappaport writes of Lincoln's decision during the Civil War to free the slaves:
"Lincoln believe that true liberty could not permit slavery. He decided to use his wartime powers as commander in chief to end slavery.

In the third year of the war, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It freed over three million black men, women, and children and called for black men to join the Union army."
Below this is a quote from Lincoln:
"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free."
© Kadir Nelson, 2008

While Rappaport does not provide the sources for each quote, readers will be very interested in the materials she provides for further investigation: a timeline, recommending reading for children who want to learn more about Lincoln, and selected research sources.

If you live near Northampton, Massachusetts, make sure to visit the R. Michelson Galleries, which has a special display of Kadir Nelson's work this month. As the announcement on the Children's Book Council page states, "One of the preeminent artists working today. Nelson is a two-time Caldecott Honor Award winner, an NAACP Image Award winner, and a four-time Coretta Scott King Award Winner, including the 2012 Book Award.R. Michaelson Galleries will be exhibiting a selection from a half dozen Nelson books, including his collaborations with Spike Lee, and work from Abe's Honest Words, the Life of Abraham Lincoln."

The review copy came from our home library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a wonderful post, Mary Ann. Especially the links to the Kadir Nelson exhibit. What an inspired pairing to put Rappaport and Nelson together on this project.

    What a great book to pair with Ann Turner's: Abe Lincoln Remembers, in which she provides reflections on his life through his imagined voice- on the evening of his trip to the theater. What an excellent discussion that would provide about the blending of historical fiction vs. non-ficition.