Lincoln and His Boys

Lincoln and His Boys

4.8 7
by Rosemary Wells, P.J. Lynch

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A warm, moving portrait of Abraham Lincoln told through the eyes of his children and captured in exquisite full-color illustrations.

Historians claim him as one of America’s most revered presidents. But to his rambunctious sons, Abraham Lincoln was above all a playful and loving father. Here is Lincoln as seen by two of his boys: Willie,

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A warm, moving portrait of Abraham Lincoln told through the eyes of his children and captured in exquisite full-color illustrations.

Historians claim him as one of America’s most revered presidents. But to his rambunctious sons, Abraham Lincoln was above all a playful and loving father. Here is Lincoln as seen by two of his boys: Willie, thrilled to be on his first train trip when Lincoln was deciding to run for president; Willie and Tad barging into Cabinet meetings to lift Lincoln’s spirits in the early days of the Civil War, Tad accompanying him to Richmond just after the South’s defeat. With the war raging and the Union under siege, we see history unfolding through Willie’s eyes and then through Tad’s — and we see Lincoln rising above his own inborn sadness and personal tragedy through his devotion to his sons. With evocative and engaging illustrations by P.J. Lynch, Rosemary Wells offers a carefully researched biography that gives us a Lincoln not frozen in time but accessible and utterly real.

Celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, February 2009

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Inspired by a 200-word fragment written by one of Lincoln's sons, Wells (Mary on Horseback) introduces the legendary president through the perspectives of his youngest children, Willie and Tad. Nine years old when the book opens, in Springfield, Ill., Willie accompanies his father to Chicago, where, as Willie puts it, "spiffed-up men with soft hands" decide that Lincoln should run for president: "It's a derby race, and I've got a plow horse's chance," Lincoln tells his son. The family vernacular will win readers quickly, as will Lincoln's readiness to indulge his boys and let them see him at work. Darkness enters gradually: on the train to Washington, Pinkerton agents whisk Lincoln off, in disguise ("a lot of shicoonery," he tells the boys), to foil an assassination plot; the outbreak of war grieves Lincoln; and then the death of Willie in 1862 devastates Mary Lincoln. Wells ends as Lincoln and Tad return from a trip to Richmond, Va., at the close of the Civil War, and Lincoln orders the Union band to play "Dixie." Rarely does a biography so robustly engage the audience's emotions. Final art, in color, not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Naomi Milliner
The author's note at the end of this book speculates, "…Lincoln's life may be more thoroughly documented than any other person's in history." But it may never have been told like this: through his youngest sons, Willie and Tad. The story opens in 1859, when Lincoln is a lawyer about to run for president. Nine-year-old Willie narrates the first part, covering a lot of ground: we learn that Tad, though very bright, is commonly viewed as slow because of a cleft palate and lisp; that Bob, the eldest, does not get along with Dad; and we see Lincoln at work—schmoozing with politicians—and at play, hanging out in Chicago with Willie. The second section, narrated by both Willie and Tad, gives a glimpse of life in the White House, from Mama's fixing up the place to her husband's anguish over the Civil War. We learn that their youngest, Eddie, died at age 3, and that Mrs. Lincoln has lived in fear ever since. Tad narrates the final section, in which his beloved brother, Willie, dies at age 12… and the war finally ends. As freed slaves rejoice in song, Tad says, "The old hymn and the war dust sprinkle down together over everything in the city." Wells's skillful storytelling weaves fact and imagination together flawlessly, creating a memorable portrait of a loving family. Lynch's illustrations, in muted but glowing tones, are tender, lovely and just right. No matter how many books you've read on Lincoln, don't miss this one. Reviewer: Naomi Milliner
School Library Journal

Gr 3-6

Inspired by a 200-word essay by Willie Lincoln, Wells offers a fictional account of Lincoln and his boys. Written first from Willie's point of view, then Tad's after Willie dies, it's a touching account of Lincoln as a patient and loving father, ready with a story, and in possession of infinite tolerance where his sons are concerned. Conversations between him and his boys shed light on what's happening at the time and on Lincoln's straightforward manner. "There are a hundred reasons why things happen, Willie. Those reasons fan out like circles around a stone thrown into a pond. The stone in the center of those reason rings is called truth. Truth is the very hardest thing on earth to see clear." Occasional colloquialisms like "four-flusher," "shicoonery," and "haberdasher" might challenge young readers, but in context the ideas are clear. Lynch captures the people and the warmth of their interactions in carefully researched oil paintings that reflect his mastery with light, perspective, and portraiture. The story closes with Lincoln's last speech, Tad at his side, while he instructs the band to play "Dixie." Presenting the president from his children's viewpoint brings both the family and the times to life.-Janet S. Thompson, Chicago Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
A series of three chapter-long snapshots gives readers glimpses of Lincoln the man as seen through the eyes of his two younger sons, Willie and Tad. In the first chapter, Willie goes to Chicago with his father, who is preparing for his presidential bid. Chapter two recounts the Lincolns' arrival in Washington and the beginning of the Civil War. Tad finishes the tale by himself, covering the period between his brother's death and the end of the war, stopping short before his father's assassination. Shot through this brief narrative are the boys' mother's moodiness and their father's vaunted humor and loving warmth toward his children. The boys' perspective allows Wells to elevate her subject to heroic proportions and to give readers intimate access to his humanity at the same time, an effect reinforced by Lynch's unself-consciously sentimental paintings. Where the narrative falls short is in the characterization of the two narrators, who never quite achieve three dimensions. In a year crammed with Lincoln-themed offerings, this one stands as a solid but not necessary purchase. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

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Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)
730L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Every evening my brother Tad and I run over to Father's office on the corner of Adams Street. We huck handfuls of pebbles up at the windowpanes so Father knows we are coming. Tad is smaller than I am, but he can throw the pebbles harder and make more noise.

Mr. Herndon, Father's law partner, likes things neat and quiet. He says we act like little wild orangutans, which is true. But Father doesn't ever scold us for what we do. If Mr. Herndon gets that look on his face and shakes his finger at us, Father laughs. Tad makes most of the trouble. I never squirt ink or ruin briefs. Mostly I stack the big old law books and make pyramids out of them and then knock them all down. It's our job, says Mama, to pull Father out of his office and get him home for supper on time, so that's what we do after the sun goes down.

On the walk home to our house on Jackson and Eighth, Father and Tad and I always stop and talk to neighbors and dogs, which makes us late. Then we run into the house and Father puts his arms around Mama and waltzes her around the room until she smiles and comes out of her fretfulness about our being late for supper.

When we sit at table, Mama makes dead sure we have good manners. We are not allowed resting on elbows. Sometimes she chides Father for wearing shirtsleeves around the house and not putting on his coat. He puts on his coat to make her happy. Then he puts his hand over his smile and declares the coat has just taken flight like an eagle and come to rest on the back of his chair.

We chew with mouths closed and don't slurp our soup. Tad has trouble eating. He was born with a hole in the roof of his mouth and has to have all his food cut up for him. His manners are not as good as mine, but they are on the way up.

Tonight at supper, when Tad pulled my hair, Mama said, "Taddie darling, who knows where we'll be a year from now? It might be in the finest palaces of Paris, France! They don't let little boys with no table manners eat in the dining rooms in the palaces!"

Immediately I wonder why Mama says this about palaces in France. It might could mean she is planning an escape from Springfield to a fancier place. Long ago Father was a congressman in Washington. Does this mean Father is redding up for another election? Willie and I discuss it in bed.

"Mama ordered a new black suit for Papa-day," says Taddie from his pillow. "She sent money in the letter. Two pair of trousers."

"How do you know?" I ask.

"She told me," Taddie answers. "She let me mail the letter to Mr. Steinway, the tailor in Chicago. That's how. I said to Mama, 'What's this letter for, Mama?' and she tried to get me to read the address and I couldn't. But then she said it's to Mr. Steinway's tailor shop on Dearborn Avenue in Chicago. It's for a new suit."

"What do you think the new suit means, Tad?" I ask.

Tad doesn't hesitate. "Papa-day's gonna turn around and re-whup Mr. Douglas." Taddie always says Papa-day; it's his way of saying Papa dear. Taddie's cleft palate gives him lots of lispy speech trouble.

Sometimes I have to translate what he says to people outside the family. A lot of people think Taddie is slow, but he doesn't miss a thing. He's as smart as a snake. When the time is right, I'll ask Father if indeed he's working up to another scrap with Mr. Douglas. Mr. Douglas beat father in the Senate election in '58. We did not like that one bit, since Mr. Douglas told lies about Father during their debates.

It is decided that I, Willie, have good enough manners that I may visit Chicago with Father when he goes to the courthouse there in early June. I am more excited than I have ever been in my nine years on earth.

On June 2nd, the morning of our trip, Mama parts my hair with her ivory comb. She slicks it down both sides with water. It stays in place until the station. Then she kisses the top of my head when the train comes down the tracks. I let go her hand and change it for Father's. Her hand is no bigger than a plump little sparrow. His hand is hard and brown and the span of my whole arm.

Father scoops up my small bag and his large one. A strand of Mama's black hair has come loose. It blows in her face until she tucks it back into its bun. She waves to us until I know it hurts her arm. Her eyes are shaded with her other hand, and she is squinting under the sun until she can't see us or the train anymore.

Now I have Father all to myself. "This is a superior train, Pa," I tell him proudly because it is my first train. Father says that it's a pretty tinky railway compared to others in Pennsylvania and New York. It takes all of a day to get to Chicago. Father and I walk to the Tremont Hotel. I never did imagine so many people or so much noise all in one place.

"Willie, you look like the preacher on his first day in heaven," Father says to me. "Surprised to see that so many other people got there too!"

People say about Father that he's pine tall. This is due to his double-long legs. In the way that tall people do, Father tips sideways to hold my hand.

In the Tremont Hotel lobby is a whole forest of trees set in porcelain tubs. I ask what their strange long leaves are. Father says they are palms. "The palm has a frond, not a leaf," he explains."F-r-o-n-d. Frond."

I spell it back to him and he is pleased.

Then there is strange music. It is not fiddle. It is not piano or horn.

"What is it, Pa? What is that little popping music?" I ask him.

"It's a harp," says Father.

So I say, "That lady playing it must be an angel. Only angels play harps!"

Father agrees that she must be an angel. He tells me, "Close your mouth, son, and don't forget to blink your eyes once in a while!"

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