- Series: Orbis Pictus Honor Books Outstanding Nonfiction for Children
- Hardcover: 232 pages
- Publisher: Calkins Creek (January 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1590783034
- ISBN-13: 978-1590783030
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1 x 10.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,520,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Father Abraham: Lincoln and His Sons (Orbis Pictus Honor Books Outstanding Nonfiction for Children) Hardcover – January 1, 2011
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The outlines of Lincoln's life are well known to most of us; this volume concentrates on Lincoln's personality as a father, the lives of his four sons, and what happened to the two sons that survived him and to their descendants, a story that most people are less familiar with.
Although Lincoln was famous for his wit and love of telling jokes, his private life was as imbued with personal sadness as his presidency was full of grief and sorrow for most U.S. citizens, a huge percentage of whom lost family members during the Civil War. Holzer chooses to begin his story with the death of Abraham Lincoln II, known as Jack--Lincoln's only grandson. Like three of Lincoln's own sons, Jack died tragically at a young age, succumbing to blood poisoning at the young age of sixteen.
Holzer then turns his attention to the Lincolns who came before Jack, as the authors puts it, "the story of the clan that might have become America's royal family but instead became America's cursed family--and then disappeared altogether." We learn about Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln's courtship, their early married life (in which they initially lived in one room in a boarding house--quite a shock for Mary Todd who came from a wealthy family). Their first son, Robert, was followed a few years later by Eddie, who was a sickly child and died shortly before his fourth birthday. Death of children was common in the 19th century; nonetheless, his parents were devastated. Lincoln cried openly, and Mary was in such despair that Abraham was forced to remind her, "Eat, Mary, for we must live." Although they never got over his loss, Mary was soon pregnant again, giving birth to Willie and then to Thomas, quickly nicknamed Tad, when his father remarked he looked like a baby frog, or tadpole.
The book is full of colorful anecdotes about the Lincoln boys and their family life, including for example, excerpts of a charming letter little Willie wrote to a friend while on a trip with his father to Chicago in 1859. We also learn about their schooling; Robert Lincoln failed his first exams to get into Harvard, and Tad had such difficulty sitting still and learning to read that today he would probably have been diagnosed with learning disabilities. The Lincolns were incredibly indulgent parents, especially for their day, when children were expected to be "seen and not heard," and it is wonderful to imagine the gangly Lincoln lying on the floor with his young sons climbing all over him, as described in this book.
The one son who lived into adulthood, Robert, became a cabinet minister under President Garfield, and ironically was present when Garfield, too, was shot by an assassin. Holzer paints a somewhat unsympathetic picture of Robert as a man; he is perhaps best known today for having his own mother committed to an insane asylum (she was later released). Toward the end of his mother's life, he took his daughter, Mary Todd's granddaughter, to see her, clearly trying to mend their relationship before Mary Todd's death.