Reviews for Looking at Lincoln

Booklist Reviews 2012 January #1
Just what is Abraham Lincoln's legacy? In this intimate portrait, a young girl walking in the park passes a man who looks like Lincoln, heads to the library, and dives into research so compelling that she has to share it with us. What follows is an account that hits the familiar notes, embellished with circular, childlike wonderings. We all know about Lincoln's wife and family. But our narrator wonders if they had nicknames for one another. We know he was consumed with the fight for freedom and justice. But our narrator wonders if he thought about what to get his little son for his birthday, too. The facts are laid out in an austere black typeface and the wonderings in loose, hand-lettered script, with certain words in color for emphasis. Kalman's primitive polychrome illustrations marry the two narratives into a meaningful whole, combining unexpected color choice and sophisticated composition for powerful emotional impact. Comprehensive endnotes fill in more facts and cite sources, but this is as much a personal impression of Lincoln's legacy as an informational biography. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
A girl passes a Lincoln look-alike and wonders about our sixteenth president. Through a natural structure that follows the narrator's thought processes, the narrative lists some basic facts; childlike musings, printed in a more casual font, personalize the account. A gloomy funeral scene is depicted in grays and blacks, a sobering note among the profusion of bright, colorful gouache illustrations. Bib.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #1
A young girl walking through a park passes a Lincoln look-alike and begins to wonder about our sixteenth president. "Who was he?" she asks herself. Being a clever girl, she goes to the library (a van Gogh-inspired room) to find out. She discovers facts but gets "lost in the photos of his unusual face. I stared at one. I could look at him forever." Never pedantic, but through a natural structure that follows the young narrator's own thought processes, the narrative lists some basic facts she discovers about Lincoln's life and then moves to her childlike musings, printed in a more casual font, that personalize this account. "I wonder if Mary and Abraham had nicknames for each other. Did she call him Linky? Did he call her Little Plumpy? Maybe." Other bits of Lincoln lore (objects such as Mary's vanilla cake and Lincoln's top hat) inspire further questions. The story gradually becomes more sophisticated, introducing war and slavery, for example, and these musings, still interspersed with questions, conclude with Lincoln's death. A gloomy funeral scene with the riderless horse is depicted in grays and blacks, a sobering, even startling, note among the profusion of bright gouache illustrations that are as colorful as springtime in Arles. Additional back matter extends the text, but it is the narrator's concluding words as she faces the Lincoln Memorial that best encourages historical examination: "Look into his beautiful eyes. Just look." betty carter

Kirkus Reviews 2011 November #2
Kalman's narrator sees a man who reminds her of Abraham Lincoln and goes to the library to find out more about the 16th president in this appealingly childlike introduction. She finds information about Lincoln's family life, his education, how he dressed, his presidency and his death. She wonders what he thought about, and she offers information about his anti-slavery views and his meetings with Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. Kalman's artwork is the main attraction here, with appealing naive illustrations done in gouache. Each page offers visual treats in a Matisse-like palette, unusual for a biography of a president, but fun in their own right--images of various people and items related to the president, including pancakes, a vanilla cake, a whistle, apples and, toward the end, an ominous-looking gun facing a rocking chair with a top hat on the floor. In the compression necessary to the picture-book form, however, history is regrettably oversimplified. Lincoln did indeed hate slavery and did say, as the narrator states, "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong," But to assert that "[t]he Northern states (the Union) believed that slavery should be abolished. And so they went to war," is to offer children a not-quite-accurate version of history adults should be ready to contextualize. In enjoying the art, readers will pick up some bits of history along the way. (notes, sources) (Picture book/biography. 5-8) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 December #1

As she did in The Principles of Uncertainty, Kalman transforms digital material--in this case, her New York Times illustrated column "In Love with A. Lincoln"--into analogue format. Kalman's fond and bittersweet account of our lanky 16th president evokes both a schoolgirl crush ("I got lost in photos of his unusual face.... I could look at him forever") and a Yankee's steely, sorrowful perspective on the price of freedom (still lifes include a bullet-torn Civil War uniform and John Wilkes Booth's pistol). Abstract gouaches--ranging from tangy colors to dolorous grays--put a contemporary spin on the iconic log cabin, Springfield house, stovepipe hat, and "his favorite vanilla cake" with ribbons of red icing. Portraits include a pensive Lincoln, seated alone or with family ("He was thinking about... doing good for mankind. And maybe he was also thinking about getting a birthday present for his little son"); Sojourner Truth; and Lincoln's pale-eyed stepmother, wearing a severe bonnet and black dress à la Picasso's portrait of Gertrude Stein. Rather than pen a textbook profile, Kalman portrays heartfelt admiration through poignant imagery. Ages 5-8. Agent: Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 January

Gr 2-5--With a breezy conversational style, thick lines, and vivid bulky colors, Kalman provides a unique introduction to our 16th president. She begins by drawing attention to Lincoln's tall stovepipe hat, the appearance of his face on the $5 bill, and the many (more than 16,000) books written about him. As the narrative continues, the author integrates information about Lincoln's impoverished childhood, study of law, election as president, Gettysburg address, Emancipation Proclamation, and murder in 1865, while also addressing fascinating lesser-known facts--his run-in with a donkey, favorite kind of cake, and the name of his dog. With each spread, readers will discover unusual and varying visuals: splashy pinks during cherry-blossom season in Washington DC, solemn portraits of Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, a bullet-ridden uniform of a Civil War soldier, the boy Abe reading by the fire, and a riderless horse with boots on backward signaling Lincoln's death. In an effective and memorable ending, Kalman closes with a Lincoln quote: "…With malice toward none, with charity for all," setting the words against a view of the Lincoln Memorial. A list of sources and appended notes add breadth to the presentation. This is a great read-aloud for younger children with lots of possibilities for discussion and a jumping-off point for older readers to motivate their research. Regardless of the number of Lincoln books already on the shelves, librarians will want to add this captivating book to their collections.--Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 September
Gr 2-5-Bold, emotionally resonant paintings flesh out the bare-bones account of Lincoln's life in this unusual and lovely homage. Kalman pairs facts with kindly guesses about Lincoln's thoughts on nicknames, dessert, and birthday presents. Somber reflections on war, slavery, and death are also included. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.