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An excellent, illustrated intermediate biography of Abraham Lincoln
on March 21, 2006
I just finished reading "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin and am in frame of mind to be spending more time reading about Abraham Lincoln. Tanya Lee Stone's volume for the DK Biography series is "A photographic story of a life," but that does not mean young readers are going to be confronted with just photographs and captions (although such books about Lincoln certainly exist). Her introduction speaks of the nation's fascination with Lincoln, touching on the many reasons he is one of the most beloved figures in American history. Stone emphasizes the idea that it is because Lincoln believed in the Declaration of Independence's proposition that "all Men are created equal." Before Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address those words were not considered as sacred as they are today. Without Lincoln at Gettysburg you do not have Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial (a statement that is true on several significant levels).
Stone covers Lincoln's life in a fairly concise manner, and while the book begins trying to show how a poor boy from the wilds of Kentucky could grow up to become president of the United States, it ends up trying to explain how Lincoln became the sort of man and president that is remembered. This juvenile biography tries to provide a fresh point of view based on the latest scholarship, so young students who have been reading books about Lincoln and the Civil War may notice some different viewpoints, but only if they have really been paying attention to when those other books were written. The result is more than an introductory biography, so this volume serves as an intermediate look at Lincoln's life. Those familiar with Lincoln's life will be well aware that there are more facts behind everything here (e.g., the political maneuvering orchestrated by Lincoln to secure the Republican nomination for president in 1860), but then this is not intended to be a comprehensive biography and Stone certainly covers the key parts and provides a solid foundation for young readers to continue their study of Lincoln.
Even though this is a paperback sized DK book, it still has more than 100 photographs, artworks, and artifacts (it is always the latter that gives you a sense of visiting a museum, which is one of the chief attractions of the series). There are actually a few pages that do not have any illustrations, but even more end up with more than one, and the illustrations are always on point to the topics under discussion in the main text. Throughout the volume there are small boxes that define key words (e.g., "milk sickness," "reconstruction"), and sidebars that provide details about key people (e.g., Ulysses S. Grant, John Wilkes Booth), issues (e.g., Lincoln and Depression, Thanksgiving), and events (e.g., Nat Turner Rebellion, Dredd Scott Decision) in Lincoln's life. There is a two-page timeline of Events in the Life of Abraham Lincoln that actually extends beyond to the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922 and the completion of Mount Rushmore in 1941. Stone also provides a detailed Bibliography of mostly books but also a couple of films, Sources Cited, and a list of places to visit rather than things to read as the brief For Further Study section.