Thursday, February 16, 2012

Presidents' Day Picture Books

Looking at Lincoln
by Maira Kalman
Penguin Young Readers Group, 2012

If I had to pick one word for the feeling I get when I read Looking at Lincoln, it's meditative.

You open the book to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address printed on the endpapers. Then, the story begins in the voice of a small girl telling about seeing a very tall man one day who reminded her of someone, but she could not think who. Of course, it was Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States.

The girl goes to the library to find out more about Lincoln. The facts she learns are printed in standard font, but her response / reflection / interpretation of the facts is printed in handwriting. The sort of conversation that the girl has with the facts is absolutely charming. It's like looking over her shoulder as she learns about this great man.

In the end, after Lincoln's death, she says, "But a great man is never really gone. Abraham Lincoln will live forever. And if you go to Washington, D.C. in the spring you can walk through the cherry blossoms and visit him. At his memorial you can read the words he wrote near the end of the war. '...With malice toward none, with charity for all.' And you can look into his beautiful eyes. Just look."

(Looking at Lincoln was more thoroughly reviewed at Jama's Alphabet Soup earlier this week.)

George Washington's Birthday: A Mostly True Tale
by Margaret McNamara
illustrated by Barry Blitt
Random House, 2012

George Washington gets the final word in this book. He tells the truth. He tells us that this book is a work of fiction, even though there's a lot of truth in the story. He goes on to tell us what parts are true, and to point out that "It's funny to think that a story about the truth was actually not true!"

This is the story of a 6 year-old boy who is afraid that everyone has forgotten that it is his birthday. On most every spread is a text box that explains a fact or a myth about Washington's life that is related to what's happening in the story. George gets so frustrated at one point that he loses control of the axe he's using to help his father prune cherry trees and he chops one down. (Myth. The truth, though, is that  Washington was always very truthful.)

At the end of the story, George finds out that no one has forgotten his birthday, and, of course, no has forgotten his birthday for hundreds of years now!

Happy Presidents' Day on Monday!  


  1. The Lincoln book looks like a treasure & I have seen if reviewed several times, always making me want it more! This Washington book looks great too, so guess it's another for my list. The idea of it is so clever. I remember when I found out that the cherry tree story was not true. I was not happy about it. Thanks, Mary Lee.

  2. Good picks! I am going to look for these at the library this weekend.

  3. I just found your blog and LOVE it!


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