From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 3–6—Written in prose as elegant and spare as that of its subject, this distinguished book takes readers from Abe's backwoods boyhood in Kentucky to his first harrowing witnessing of slavery in New Orleans, on to the Illinois legislature and the presidency. Each half-page of generously spaced text appears against a white background. Rappaport's carefully chosen words are both accessible and effective: "The war dragged on./Lincoln grew sadder and sadder/as more men died." Until, "The South finally surrendered./The job of healing the nation began./But Lincoln was not there to help./An assassin's bullet ended his life." Corresponding quotes from Lincoln appear in italics, e.g., "The moment came when I felt that slavery must die that the nation might live!"
Handsome, larger-than-life paintings fill the remaining page and a half of each spread with powerful images—of Abe as a strong, lanky youth with a book or oar in hand, then later as a lawyer with unkempt hair, feather pen, and midnight candles burning. Readers see the somber, resigned faces of slaves—young and old—first in chains, then picking cotton under a blazing sun, and later the proud faces of an all-black regiment of the Union Army. From Lincoln's striking countenance on the cover—scruffy dark hair tinged with gray, big ears, bright eyes, and benevolent face, lined with worry and age—to the end, this is one Lincoln book that all libraries will want to have.—Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools
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*Starred Review* This collaboration between Rappaport and Nelson provides a sweeping arc of Lincoln’s life, jumping from his humble beginnings and his early political career through his struggles to preserve the Union and to help abolish slavery. Rappaport writes in a very free verse and on each page echoes her narrative with prescient samplings of Lincoln’s words. In the generously sized artwork, which fills three-quarters of each spread, Nelson makes the familiar face, staring out at us from various currencies, exciting again, showing deep furrows and wearied creases, and on the few occasions when Lincoln falls prey to looking like a wooden statue, it is the faces of the people surrounding him, watching him and judging him, that carry the weight of the artwork’s impact. Nelson has the uncanny ability to telegraph a full range of emotion in the faces, especially in the eyes of his subjects, and it is in these details that he displays the true immensity of his talent. Minimally, his work is compelling; at best, it’s spellbinding. The exceptional art, along with Rappaport’s and Lincoln’s words, makes this a fine celebration of a man who needs little introduction. Grades 2-4. --Ian Chipman