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Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship

Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship

by Nikki Giovanni, Bryan Collier (Illustrator)

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Our sixteenth president is known for many things: he delivered the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address during the Civil War. He was tall and skinny and notoriously stern-looking. And he also had some very strong ideas about abolishing slavery, ideas which brought him into close contact with another very visible public figure: Frederick


Our sixteenth president is known for many things: he delivered the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address during the Civil War. He was tall and skinny and notoriously stern-looking. And he also had some very strong ideas about abolishing slavery, ideas which brought him into close contact with another very visible public figure: Frederick Douglass. Douglass was born a slave but escaped in 1838 and became one of the central figures in the history of the American abolitionist movement.

This book offers a glimpse into the unusual friendship between two great American leaders. At a time when racial tensions were high and racial equality was not yet established, Abraham Lincoln and Douglass formed a strong bond over shared ideals and worked alongside each other for a common goal.

Nikki Giovanni and Bryan Collier, the acclaimed team behind Rosa, winner of the Coretta Scott King Award and a Caldecott Honor book, join forces once more to portray this historic friendship at a unique moment in time.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Clear, accessible storytelling...the story of two powerful men who shaped the course of the United States, but also a brief history of the war that raged while they forged a fast but deep friendship."—Publishers Weekly
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Abraham Lincoln invited a special guest, Frederick Douglass, to the reception following his second inauguration. Both had grown up under difficult circumstances and hated slavery. They had become friends when Lincoln was a member of Congress and the Civil War loomed. Being black, Douglass faced additional pressures. He even had difficulty getting into the reception. In a double foldout Collier dramatically demonstrates the grim war's pallor over the celebration. The conversation between the friends is recreated by Giovanni. Although they see "difficult days ahead," they are not worried. The horror of the subsequent assassination of Lincoln is noted only on the "Time Line." Collier chooses paper collage to create sets of parallel scenes that arise from the lives of the two men. One pair depicts each as an adolescent on a cabin floor involved in gaining literacy. Few details are needed; just a strong light source to illuminate the figures. An imaginative choice of patterned papers creates a bed of river plants. Photographs of forests are integrated into the dramatic scenes of John Brown's struggle. The double foldout of the smoky battle scenes uses cutouts of soldiers applied to the broken landscape. Notes from both author and illustrator add to the understanding of the book. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2–6—Based on the book by Nikki Giovanni (Holt, 2008), this production explores the little-known friendship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Giovanni examines the similarities and differences in events in both their lives that led them to become important historical figures and great American leaders, and shows the commonalities that might have led to their friendship. Slavery, the abolition movement, Harper's Ferry, other famous abolitionists, and a foreshadowing of Lincoln's untimely death are presented. As Danny Glover reads the evocative text, Bryan Collier's exquisite multimedia illustrations are iconographically scanned with minor animation and some archival photographs added. Collier's often haunting work merits close examination, adding an additional poignant layer to the text. Original music also helps create a production that touches both heart and mind. There is also a somewhat rambling interview with Giovanni that provides interesting tidbits into the research for and motivation for writing the book. Optional read-along subtitles are available. This nicely done production has a variety of classroom uses and curriculum applications.—Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA
Kirkus Reviews

A dramatic double-page spread of the Emancipation Proclamation fast-forwards to a March evening in 1865 at the White House, where President and Mrs. Lincoln are hosting an inaugural ball and to which Frederick Douglass is an invited guest. Giovanni then goes back in time to Douglass's and Lincoln's childhoods, comparing and contrasting. It's then back to the ball via Harpers Ferry and the Civil War. The text, already disjointed, even devotes two pages to John Brown and Mary Ellen Pleasant (who helped raise money for Brown), further fracturing the narrative. Collier's large paintings are dramatic, particularly one of soldiers in grey fighting soldiers in blue and another of a slave looking out from the divided pieces of an American flag. Unfortunately, both Lincoln and Douglass are depicted with oddly shaped faces and strange hairdos, which often resemble toupées. The stiff dialogue is unsourced by any notes. It's the season for Lincolnalia, but this team, who collaborated successfully on Rosa (2005), fail to present a focused work that will be meaningful to children. (timeline) (Picture book. 4-7)

Children's Literature - Tiffany Torbeck
The smooth cadence of Danny Glover's voice tells the story of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass quite well in this narrated version of the picture book. The book itself is beautiful, and the lyric quality of the text deserves to be read aloud. Already, this book should be on the shelves of public and school libraries, but with this sound recording, a whole class can enjoy this book at one time. Soft music plays in the background, foreshadowing dark events about to take place and dogs bark while Douglas makes his escape from slavery. The double spread of the Civil War is backed up with drums and growing tension, however, this page turn was a little awkward. Glover's voice gives such a calming quality to the beautiful text and makes the recording able to stand alone. Whether each piece is experienced alone or together as a set, this book plus CD will be very useful in classrooms and school libraries. Reviewer: Tiffany Torbeck
Children's Literature - Tiffany Erickson
Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass were very unlikely friends, but after a long road for both, they met when Lincoln became a representative. The story moves from the childhood of both men with Douglass successfully escaping from slavery and Lincoln seeing the pains of slavery while on a river trip to New Orleans. Quite a bit of attention is paid to the Harper's Ferry incident, since this was one of the contributing factors to the Civil War. Old portraits of John Brown, Mary Pleasant, and Douglass are included in the video that were not included in the book. More attention seems to be paid to this incident in the video than in the book, perhaps underscoring the importance. Finally, Lincoln and Douglass complete their journey to the White House with a hopeful exchange. The action is heightened with dramatic movement and good pacing. An author interview is included as well as viewing notes. Many classrooms will enjoy learning about this unexpected friendship in a visual format. Reviewer: Tiffany Erickson

Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.20(d)
Age Range:
6 - 11 Years

Meet the Author

Nikki Giovanni is one of our best-known and best-loved African American poets. She is the author of Rosa, which won the Coretta Scott King Award and a Caldecott Honor, as well many other books for children and adults. She teaches creative writing at Virginia Tech and lives in Christiansburg, Virginia.

Bryan Collier is the illustrator of the acclaimed Rosa and the author/illustrator of Uptown, winner of the Coretta Scott King Award and the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award. He is also the illustrator of Martin's Big Words, which was a Caldecott Honor Book. Mr. Collier lives with his family in New York.

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