Okay, so Lincoln a Photobiography by Russell Freedman was a tad longer than I was anticipating. Honestly, I thought the last two weeks were going to be a breeze when it came to my quest, which is good because I’m on another sort of quest called: “knit most of your Christmas gifts this year.” The poetry one from last week was easy and took less than an hour to read through. Lincoln? Well, let’s just say it was more biography than picture. I was picturing the book to basically be, well, a picture book. A biography told via pictures if you will. Instead, I got to read a book where sometimes there weren’t any pictures at all on the page. All this ridiculous complaining/griping to say that I really did enjoy it. And, I’m late in writing this!! I know it’s not really a big deal but I don’t want to start slacking on the quest. I really enjoy having the challenge of reading at least one book a week and then being, in some ways, forced to articulate my thoughts on it. I think it’s really healthy for me actually.
So, back to the book. It consists of seven chapters with a few extra’s at the end like some of Lincoln’s famous quotes, the locations of all his monuments and memorials, and even further reading options about Lincoln’s life. The seven chapters take you chronologically through his life, and the reader really gets a sense of how humble his beginnings were and how he developed into a man who didn’t care as much about slavery as he did keeping the Union together to the man who was responsible for the Emancipation Proclamation.
At one point Freedman describes what a typical day looked like for Lincoln in the White House and in the morning he allowed people to come in and voice their complaints or worries. It’s hard for me to imagine that being the case in today’s White House and not because of the specific man there, but because it feels like the President has become more inaccessible to the common person in contrast to Lincoln’s day.
The pictures were really interesting to look at. There’s quite a few that are portraits of Lincoln as the war progressed. Since Lincoln didn’t think the war would last that long you can see the haggard-ness of his face and spirit in those portraits. And, I didn’t know this, but Lincoln had always been clean-shaven up until his election to presidency. “Shortly before the election, Lincoln received a letter from Grace Bedell, an eleven-year-old girl in Westfield, New York, suggesting that he grow a beard. “…you would look a great deal better for your face is so think,” she wrote. “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you.” As he waited for the nation to vote, Lincoln took her advice” (Freedman, 62).
It felt like reading a history book…but then again, it kind of was a history book. It’s the first non-fiction Newbery I’ve read and I liked it. In the beginning I was daunted by the length and genre after so many short works of fiction, but I feel the better for having read this book.
(notice the knitting needles sticking up at the front of the picture. Trying to have two hobbies that require both eyes and the use of fingers is kind of exhausting. A good kind of exhausting. And notice I’m once again wearing stripes. Mom, apparently I like them after all.)