- Age Range: 10 - 12 years
- Grade Level: 5 - 7
- Lexile Measure: 740L (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 243 pages
- Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (January 1, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0152055975
- ISBN-13: 978-0152055974
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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An Unlikely Friendship: A Novel of Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley Hardcover – January 1, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6–9—Fictionalized first-person accounts portray the first 20 years of the contrasting lives of Lincoln and Keckley. Two brief factual chapters and an epilogue abruptly and briefly summarize the next 25 years and document the "unlikely friendship" that developed once their paths crossed. A wealth of 19th-century details and references enriches both narratives. Mary Todd has a privileged but controlled upbringing in Kentucky where an array of siblings, attentive Mammy Sally, an affectionate but aloof father, and a proud, devoted grandmother help her to cope with a critical, harsh stepmother. In contrast, Lizzy, a master's mulatto child, learns through hardship and heartbreak to live the slave adage, "Got one mind for the boss to see, got another for what I know is me." When the women finally meet, Lizzy has purchased her freedom and has established herself as a renowned dressmaker. Her patience and skill help the fashion-obsessed, volatile First Lady deal with life in the White House and public criticism of both her husband's antislavery views and her family's unrefined "backwoods" status. Although the two figures share a common time and place and an employer-employee codependence, the actual depth of their mutual understanding and friendship is unclear. Nonetheless, they have authentic voices and present meaningful perspectives on social conditions and slavery. Both personalities are well drawn, with real anxieties and emotions.—Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
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Top Customer Reviews
Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley met in 1861 when Ms. Keckley, "a free black woman who had purchased her own freedom," came to the White House to interview for the position as the First Lady's dressmaker.
Despite her success among Washington, D.C.'s elite, "Lizzie" never believed she had a real chance at securing the position. Little did she realize that she and Mrs. Lincoln were about to embark on a friendship that would last a lifetime.
AN UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP is a unique breed of historical fiction in that doesn't follow a traditional linear model of storytelling.
Author Ann Rinaldi opens by depicting the day of President Lincoln's assassination, giving us the story from both Lizzie and Mary's perspectives throughout. She then moves on to depict each woman's life from early childhood to young adulthood, each followed by non-fictional, mini-biographies of their lives up to the point of their initial meeting. Ms. Rinaldi closes the novel with a final section describing the womens' lives and friendship after they left the White House.
What makes this novel such a great read is the author's careful attention to historical detail. While it's impossible to be certain of Lizzie and Mary's exact conversations and thoughts, knowing the events described have been verified - not "created" or amalgamated for editorial purposes - gives AN UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP a level of authenticity sorely lacking in most books in this genre.
And while I consider characterizing the relationship between a white woman of privilege and a mulatto woman born into slavery during the Antebellum period a generous overstatement, these two women undoubtedly formed a bond that was unique to their time and place in history - a feat always worthy of consideration.
Reviewed by: Cat
Lizzy Keckly comes in the second half of the book. Her life as a slave has many hardships, such as the time when her friend has to eat the heads off of worms. It is especially difficult for her because she is mulatto; torn between her white father and black family. All she wants is to buy her freedom one day. She does that as well as become Mary Lincoln's personal dress-maker.
Both of these ambitious women never swayed from their goals. Mary suffered the dislikes of her step-mother to the fullest;Lizzy was tortured in her enslavement, but both fullfilled their dreams. Mrs. Lincoln held dazzling parties. Lizzy became the finest dress-maker in Washington D.C. And when they met, it led to a strong, yet unlikely frienship.
I really enjoyed this book because I felt like I got to know the characters personally. They were brought to life and I related to their emotions. It also gave me a glimpse of the lifestyle back then. Even though it was historical it was very entertaining.
The first person narratives of first Mary Todd and then Lizzy Hobbs Keckley show how very differently the two young women grew up, yet both were eerily similar in their immediate family circumstances. Both struggled to find her place within the confines of the family she'd been born into, and both had difficulty learning to keep to themselves. Both share stories of how they found love with members of their families yet still felt distant. Both were headstrong young women who suffered losses yet somehow remained strong; when they meet later in Washington after Lincoln becomes President, they each discover that there is a kindred spirit in the other, despite the fact that one was raised in relative luxury while the other was a house slave. Rinaldi does a splendid job of bringing both ladies to light and showing them as real people, just as she always done in her fine historical fiction. Recommended for all ages.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I wished it had more of the two women's friendship together; the book focusses mainly on their two separate lives.Read more