13 May 2014

Lincoln: A Photobiography: 1988 Newbery Award Winner

In March of 2014, I started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book.  A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all.  Want to keep track of which books I read?  Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!

Lincoln Photobiography.jpg
Cover of the book - used for identification purposes only under the fair use clause

Abraham Lincoln: A Giant Among Men
"Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition....  I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem." ~ Abraham Lincoln

The story of the sixteenth president is one of both facts and myth.  Yes, he was an honest man, but he wasn't a perfect man.  Russell Freedman does a great job in this book, Lincoln: A Photobiography of putting down in words and pictures the story of the president who lead the United States through the Civil War.  The words and photographs do justice to a man so steeped in American mythos that he's a modern hero.

This was the first non-fiction work I read for this project.  I enjoyed this book and it was a very quick read for me.  Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorite subjects in history, as he was the president who lead the country through the Civil War (my favorite portion of American history thanks to my father's love of the subject).  I was assigned Stephen B. Oates' Lincoln biography With Malice Toward None: a Life of Abraham Lincoln in college for a history class and required to pick the book apart - Thank you, Professor Edgington!.  I now own a dog-eared copy of Oates' book, as I try to read it once every other year. Freedman's work seemed to be a water-down version of that book, but given the fact that this was written for children, it is a very intelligent book.  Missing are some of the controversies that surrounded Lincoln, and dusted over are the views he had on race. But this book doesn't hold Lincoln up to the hero worship that American society has painted, but rather showed a man plagued by bouts of depression and sadness, a man who lost his mother and sister at a young age and two of his sons before his death, a man who was very insecure of himself because he had very little education and was self learned.  Even if you are an adult, you will appreciate the intelligence with which this book was written.

It is called a photobiography because most of the work revolves around the photos that Russell Freedman chooses to portray.  There are the earliest photos of Lincoln and his family, and the four pictures that were taken of him while he was President that show how he aged.  There are shots from the Civil war itself, and photos of those who worked closely with Lincoln at all stages of his life.   Each photo has its one narrative, and enhance the reading of the book. 

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