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The Lincolns by Candace Fleming

A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Cover art The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming - Kids nonfiction
Random House

The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary

Candace Fleming has used period photographs, letters, engravings, cartoons and more to create The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary, the biography of Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. Rather than always being in strict chronological order, the scrapbook is organized by key themes. However, a four-page annotated timeline of the Lincoln years is at the beginning of the book to help readers place the information in historical context.

The Lincolns is divided into eight chapters. The first chapter details Abraham Lincoln’s early years and the second chapter, Mary’s, while the third chapter covers their meeting, tumultuous courtship, marriage and Lincoln’s election to Congress. The remaining chapters up until the last chapter focus on the Lincoln’s lives in the context of national events: the question of slavery, Lincoln’s election, his presidency and the Civil War. The final chapter focuses on Mary’s life after Lincoln’s assassination. Each chapter has a very large number of entries, many very short, and many illustrated.

The Lincolns; The Format

What makes the book so appealing is the scrapbook format. In a recent interview, author Candace Fleming responded to a question about her use of the scrapbook format by stating,
    "I heard a talk by [University of Washington professor] Eliza Dresang on how we’ve created a new generation of readers in this digital age, readers who are used to getting information in little tidbits. On a computer screen, and even on TV, the news has those tickers crawling across the bottom—you’ve got five or more things on a screen at once. Eliza contends that this is not bad, just different. We need to think about texts that speak to these new readers. Additionally I was thinking about historical literacy, that nonfiction should have source notes, and how can we incorporate visuals, historical visuals." (School Library Journal, 7/26/2009)
The 188-page book contains an index, detailed source notes for each chapter, recommended books about the Lincolns and Lincoln Web sites, as well as an essay by Candace Fleming about how she researched the lives and times of Abraham Lincoln and of Mary Todd Lincoln. I was also pleased to learn through reading the Acknowledgments page how many scholars Fleming consulted with and how careful she was to have the entire contents of her book fact-checked before publication.

The Lincolns: The Author

The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary is the third scrapbook biography that Candace Fleming has written. The others are Ben Franklin’s Almanac: Being A True Account of the Good Gentleman’s Life and Our Eleanor: A Scrapbook Look at Eleanor Roosevelt’s Remarkable Life. Fleming has also written a number of other children’s books, including The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School and Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!.

The Lincolns: My Recommendation

The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary is a fascinating book. I would recommend it as a reference book for tweens (ages 8-12), teens, and adults. It's the kind of book readers will enjoy dipping into again and again.
However, as a biography, I would recommend The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary for children 12 and older and adults. That's because the book's format requires the reader to analyze and synthesize a large amount of material (all those "tidbits") in order to get a clear understanding of the lives of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. (Schwartz & Wade, An Imprint of Random House Children's Books, 2008. ISBN: 9780375836183

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