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Abe Lincoln’s Dream

Abe Lincoln's DreamFirst, an aside: I meant to talk about this one in November, but forgot. I forgot because a certain second grade picture book hoarder (she knows who she is) absconded with this and about eight other newish books. So, true to form, I am Down To The Wire on this one.

Our second of three in the Dream Sequence (books with word “dream” in the title) of 2012 picture books follows:

I was taken by this one from the first spread, where I happily recognized Fala, FDR’s pooch. On the lawn at first, then scaling the stairs with his ridiculously short legs, Fala looks terrified. Turns out all of the White House pooches were terrified of a particular room — the Lincoln Bedroom. Ghosts in the White House are fodder for many stories, but Lane Smith’s imagination takes the idea of Lincoln’s ghost to a whole new place.

Quincy, a modern African-American girl, wanders off from her tour group and ends up meeting Lincoln and taking a joke-filled flight with him where they discuss all manner of serious business: the state of the union, equality, and fighting amongst citizens. Each character has dreams, but Lincoln’s, of a “ship sailing rapidly for some shore I know not where,” seems ominous at first. The optimistic ending has Quincy dreaming his dream, but this time the ship (a red, white and blue paddle boat) is “moving rapidly toward the rising sun. He was smiling.”

The deeply-saturated matte black endpapers add an air of gravitas to this book that sways back and forth between  jokes and serious questions, which I quite like. Because I am always worried about applying my 2013 sensibilities to a nineteenth century president, I ran this by a father in my class, who happens to be a presidential scholar. I figured he would trash that part of the book, but he enthusiastically agreed with Lane Smith’s take on Lincoln. Here is the full content of his e-mail:  “Thanks much for the look at Lincoln. I thought it rather good, and accurate. The message is interestingly in keeping with Lincoln’s own tragic sensibility — I can actually see him as a troubled ghost who could use a look at the Apollo landing site. And the use of the FDR, LBJ, and RR dogs shows a historical sophistication. All in all: recommended!” Check that off my list of things to worry about.

The use of different fonts, much like the broadsides of the day, add to the design and help the reader know who is talking. Smith’s illustrations, created in oils, pen, and ink, are especially stunning in this sepia-toned volume. The browns and greens soar and the red roses really pop. The cheery cherry blossoms make a nice cultural reference too. And there are many references for young history buffs to enjoy in these illustrations: the presidential dogs, the stovepipe hats, the rose garden, the jokes, the ship of state, maps, flags, monuments, the Statue of Liberty, Mt. Rushmore…too many to mention.

It’s fun to look at that final image of one big-eared president on the weekend when another big-eared President will take the oath of office. Would Lincoln have ever dreamed THAT?

Robin Smith About Robin Smith

Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine and has served on multiple award committees.

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