From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Kindergarten-Grade 3—Hopkinson has created a lively, participatory tale that will surely stand out among the many titles published to honor the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. With a conspiratorial wink at the audience, an omniscient narrator invites readers to watch seven-year-old Abe and his real-life friend Austin Gollaher succumb to the "dare you" lure of a roaring creek and a perilous crossing on a fallen log (an author's note details the genesis of the story). Imagine where we as a nation might be if unsung-hero Austin hadn't been there to rescue impetuous Abraham from his tumble into those tumultuous waters. In dialogic asides and exclamations, the author addresses the illustrator and brings him (or, rather, his pencil-wielding hand) onstage to collaborate and correct, and also speaks to readers, inviting involvement and evoking response. Hendrix's illustrations have a naive and rustic flavor that's in perfect harmony with the gravelly, homespun narrator's voice (keen-eyed readers will find a rendering of the storyteller in the endpaper art). Energetic spreads give a big, broad, horizontal view of the green Kentucky valley setting with its rambling curves, rolling mountains, and rushing waters, and a very effective impression of how long that creek-crossing must have seemed…maybe. "For that's the thing about history," Hopkinson says, "if you weren't there, you can't know for sure." What you can know for sure is that this is a book you should add to your shelves.—Kathy Krasniewicz, Perrot Library, Old Greenwich, CT
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*Starred Review* In 1816, seven-year-old Abe and his friend Austin go down to see Knob Creek, swollen and turbulent after heavy rains, and decide to use a log to cross it. When Abe falls into the water, Austin saves his life and Abe promises that he’ll never forget it. Even when he’s the president of a war-torn country, Abe fondly remembers his old friend. That’s the short version of the story, but this unusual and often amusing picture book offers much more than an illustrated reminiscence. Hopkinson sets a folksy tone at the beginning, saying that she liked this old tale so much that she’s asked her friend John “to help out by drawing some pictures.” The accompanying maplike ink-and-watercolor artwork shows the landscape of the Kentucky setting along with several elements of the narrative, even as the hand and brush of the illustrator get caught in the act of creating the scene. Hopkinson’s comments to herself, her audience, and her friend (the artist) will increase children’s awareness of the choices that go into telling a tale, even a supposedly true tale, and illustrating it. On the closing pages, the restatement of the moral is funny as well as thought provoking. Rewarding on many levels, this high-spirited picture book is an engaging example of metafiction for the younger set. Preschool-Grade 3. --Carolyn Phelan