“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lincoln and His Boys • Middle-grade fiction

Lincoln and His Boys
by Rosemary Wells • illustrated by P.J. Lynch
January 2009 • Candlewick Press • Middle-grade fiction
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.
Story: 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.
Story behind the story: While researching Red Moon at Sharpsburg, a historical novel about the Civil War, award-winning author Rosemary Wells came upon a 200-word fragment by Willie Lincoln about a trip taken with this father; this was the beginning of Lincoln and His Boys. To illustrate the book, award-winning artist P.J. Lynch traveled with Wells to the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL and assembled hundreds of contemporary images of Lincoln. "It was great to see the exact carpet or curtains or wallpaper that Lincoln and his family knew. Unfortunately the fashion then was for very garish colours and extravagant patterning," says Lynch. "I was able to do lots of other really useful research, including a visit to the Railway Depot that has been preserved as it was the day that Lincoln and his family departed Springfield for Washington." See PJ Lynch's blog for more about the making of the book and how his thoughts about how it relates to the current President-elect.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.


Tina's Blog said...

I just finished this book this morning and absolutely love it. I have a soft spot for Lincoln, anyway, and started reading this book to my daughters a few days ago. Last night we couldn't find it and my oldest daughter's comment was, "I am crazy for that book!" told me she was enjoying it, too.
Told by Tad and Willie Lincoln the boys are able to convey the wonderful relationship they had with their father, who just happened to be the President of the United States. His enthusiasm for his children was unique for that time period, but Wells has done her research well.
The book spans many years, ending right after the end of the Civil War. Sadly, I know what occurs next and can imagine Tad's devastation over the death of his beloved father (Willie has already passed away).
I will finish reading this book to my girls tonight and am anxious for their feedback.

Sandra Stiles said...

I found my copy in my school mailbox this afternoon as I was preparing to leave school. I could not wait to get home and read it. Once I started I could put it down. I loved the story told through the voice of Tad and Willie. It showed a personal side that most of us have never seen before.
It showed the concern Lincoln had for all people, the great father that he was and how they handled the death of Willie in their own way.
To me one of the most important things I found was that Lincoln made sure his cabinet knew where hsi family stood in the order of things.
I can't wait to take this back to school tomorrow and share it with my students.
I give this book a 5.

Ellen said...

I first noticed the beautiful pictures. Their warm hues and soft look invited me in. As I started the brief book, I was amazed at how quickly I finished it.
From all I know, the conversations seemed very true and their heartfelt tone made me feel as if I was listening in on private conversations.
It was nice to see a great public man in his private setting.
Toward the end, I felt sorry for Tad as I knew his father was not long for this world. However, I finished the book with hope and a greater appreciation for the father.
I give it a 5.

Louise Stearns, Southern Illinois University said...

Rosemary Wells has created a wonderful, insightful book about Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln and His Boys gives the reader a personal look at Lincoln and his family. Lincoln's love for his sons, his grief over Willie's death, his struggles with the war as well as his wife's depression, are all portrayed in this insightful story. Wells used primary documents to validate her writing, and her author's note adds credibility to her writing. This book will be a great addition to any lesson about Lincoln. I recommend this book to teachers to be used as a read aloud. I can't wait to share this book with my students. I give this book a 5. Louise Stearns, Southern Illinois University

Sunshine, teacher, 5th grade, Arizona said...

This is a very touching book written in a manner that will interest students in intermediate grades. The boys stories made Lincoln seem very approachable. Athough I have always thought of him as kind and compassionate, this story made him more so. His love for his family shows through in this book.
This book would be great to teach a lesson about voice or point of view while incorporating history. There are moments of sadness but the poignancy is lacking making it good for instructional purposes.
A sweet story, recommended without reservation (4).

loonyhiker said...

This was a fantastic book to read and I couldn't put it down. I loved learning about Lincoln from the perspective of his children. It really made me see him in a different light and I learned some things that I never knew about him and I think students will feel the same way when they read this. I think this book would really appeal to boys because it is from a boy's point of view. I could see them making comparison's about boys and their fathers then and now. I would definitely give this book a 5!

rauzer said...

I just received this book yesterday and read it in one night. I loved it. It shows a great emotional side into a great president. The pictures are so detailed and warm. It is narrated by Lincoln's two middle sons, Willie and Tad. The book covers from 1858-1865. It shows how Lincoln loved his family above all. The great pain that he and Mary went through in their lives is heart-breaking. It is so inspiring to read how Lincoln loved this country and how he desired the Union to be kept together.
I highly recommend this book with a 5 star. Happy 200th Abe!

Anonymous said...

I really loved this new perspective of Lincoln. The story of Lincoln as told through the eyes of his sons is very heartwarming and personal. This book is useful for not only an enjoyable read of Lincoln, but also as a research book well-suited to the middle grades.
I strongly recommend this book.
Christine B.
6th grade
Chicago, IL

The Black Family said...

I spent the last 45 minutes reading this fabulous book. I give it a rating of 5/5, as it contains the perfect blend of historical facts and storytelling through the eyes of Lincoln's two boys. I felt a full range of emotions from sadness, to joy, to empathy, and was often carried to thoughts of my own son and how I would like him to perceive me in as great a light as Lincoln's son's saw him. Lincoln and His Boys is a great quick read for young adults and adults, as well as a great chapter book for grades 6-8. It would also be a fabulous read-aloud for grades 3-5. It allows for a lot of discussion about presidents as real historical figures and allows students to relate to an office to which they feel so far removed.

ahslibrarian said...

Just in time for his 200th birthday, “Lincoln and His Boys” offers much more than a cursory account of the beloved president’s life. The story is biographical and Tad and Willie are the storytellers. Their fictionalized dialogue based on historic accounts gives Wells great credibility as both researcher and writer. The dialogue is engaging, yet challenging the reader to discover new words that have long passed out of popular usage. The text is covered with facts that are skillfully woven to give a rather complete story of Mr. Lincoln’s perspective of the Civil War.
Teachers of American History from upper elementary through high school will find uses for the book. Although intended for a younger audience a middle or high school teacher may use it in a center to give more perspective to the importance of Lincoln and his family. Generally speaking, good resources that probe the relationships of the Lincoln family are missing from most school curriculums. Even scarcer are books that tie the family influences to the administration itself. Clearly, “Lincoln and His Boys” will invite children to explore the other factors that influence decision making. Add it with confidence to your classroom or library.

4 out of 5

John Parker
Media Coordinator
Andrews High School
50 HS Drive
Andrews, NC 28901

Laura Backman said...

"Lincoln and His Boys" is a terrific book but is an especially great hook for boys who are reluctant readers.
Rosemary Wells seems to effortlessly weave historical information throughout this heartwarming story.
This story is perfect for comparing similarities and differences and making connections.
Told from the perspective of his two middle sons, it provides the reader with insight not only to a great leader, but a wonderful, accessible human being and father.
Laura Backman
Reading Specialist
Melville School
Author of "Lemon the Duck"

Anonymous said...

Lincoln and His Boys is a very endearing story about Abraham Lincoln in both the role of United States President and loving parent. Classified as fiction, this story is filled with fact after caring fact about how President Lincoln dealt with the pressures of running a country while dealing with the heartaches of a parent. Written in language suitable for elementary to middle school students, I found it both enjoyable and educational. I rate the book a 4 because I would rummage through the picnic basket to read it. It was difficult for me to put this book down and I can't wait to tell our teachers about this mini-treasure of a book!

Julia Pitau
Media & Intervention Technician
Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

Linda Biondi said...

Today is Lincoln's birthday! I received the book in the mail yesterday, read it last night and couldn't put it down. As I started to read it to the students, they were on the edge of their seats. In fact, they wanted to give up part of their recess time so I could continue to read it.

From the eye catching cover to the author's note, this book was composed in a style that captivated the reader, but also showed the passion that the author possessed for social studies and Abe Lincoln.

Whether you are a child or an adult reading the book, you feel like you are walking in the steps of each of the characters. You feel Mary Todd Lincoln's sadness when her son dies, laugh at their antics at the dinner table, and are in wonder about the "going ons" in the "President's House".

If you are looking for a book that will act as a hook for your children to fall in love with history, this is the one to buy!

Mrs. Kondrick said...

This book captured me first with the beautiful illustrations. I think many reluctant readers will pick it up for the same reason. Once the book is in any readers hands it will not be set down until he/she is finished reading it. It is an easy middle grade read, and would be great as a primary read aloud. Getting to know President Lincoln through his boys made his already bigger than life persona more personal. I can hear them talking at the table after dragging their father home, and his disapproving cabinet. The authors note is as touching as the book. I would include this in any classroom library to prompt discussion about our President, families, and the Civil War.
A Picnic Basket 5.

Karen Kondrick
Literacy Coach
Ripley, NY

dmuldawer said...

It was certainly interesting to read a book about Lincoln written from the point of view of his sons. The childlike tone adds a certain charm to historical events.

I do wish there had been more explanation in spots. Most children wouldn't be familiar with the term "cleft palate" and while it explains that Willie dies of a fever, it doesn't talk about Typhoid. I also wonder about the author's choice to essentially skip the election and go right to the nomination.

Lincoln and His Boys does a good job of establishing Lincoln as an exceptionally moral person with a sense of decency toward the conquered, as well as the conquerers. It also establishes his humanity.

Where Wells excels is in the art of the small vignette, moments which reveal powerful insights about the characters, such as when Tad gives away his muffin to a hungry girl.

This book, while a little young for middle school, seems ideal for about third to fifth grade. It would make a great classroom book and a good resource book for students hoping to learn more about Lincoln.

Picnic Basket Score: 4

Kathy said...

Fantastic - loved the book! I used Lincoln and His Boys as a read aloud to my 4th grade students during the week of Lincoln's 200th birthday. My 4th graders begged to hear the book read each day. They were excited by the beautiful pictures and the "describing words". We were all touched by the relationship between Lincoln and his boys. The book led to alot of outside discussion about this time in history. My students have already asked to read this book on their own. A super addition to my collection of "president books." I rate this book a 5 and thanks for the opportunity to review and read it.

Kathy J. Johnson
4th Grade
Williamsburg Elementary
Williamsburg, MO

Brian said...

What got my attention first about Lincoln and His Boys was a perspective of the president I hadn't seen before - through the eyes of his children. I think many kids will see reflections of their own relationships with their fathers: the hugs, the smiles, the wrestling on the floor of the train car while heading to Washington to be president...or maybe just the wrestling part, anyway.

Rating: 4 - Recommend without Reservation. Middle elementary students will enjoy this short yet unique look at President Lincoln.

4th Grade Teacher

Anonymous said...

I was so pleased with the writing and illustrations of Lincoln and His Boys that, after leaving a ranking here, I immediately sent an email to all of our teachers about this book! One teacher stopped by a couple of days ago to check it out so she could read it to her Kindergarten son. The following day she told me that even though it was too much for him, she really enjoyed it, and that she also had a difficult time putting the book down. She is now looking into creating a study guide that all of the teachers here can use. I encouraged her to to let the other teachers know her opinion of the book. Thank you, again, Picnic Basket! You are making it possible to spread the joy of reading to our students at all grade levels.

Julia Pitau
Media & Intervention Technician
Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

Laurie Slagenwhite, Youth Services Librarian said...

This transitional chapter book offers brief vignettes in the life of Abraham Lincoln, told from the point of view of his sons, Willie and Tad. Based on extensive research, the stories cover the years 1859 to 1865, and show Lincoln as a loving father -- and his wife, Mary Todd, as much more sympathetic than the usual portrayal. While many of the stories are lighthearted, Tad's perception of his parents' grief -- and his own -- at the death of Willie is very effective. And Lynch's oil paintings glow. Ending with the Union victory (not the assassination), this is an excellent way to introduce our 16th president to 2nd-4th-graders. My rating: 4.

Laurie Slagenwhite, Youth Services Librarian, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, Michigan.

Anonymous said...

Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells

Just received and read this book. And, just passed it on. It is too good not to share! I love this book and had my own daughers 11 and 12 read it. They give it two thumbs up also.

Historical accuracy and language is to be commended.

I rate this book a 5.

Caren Pence
Instructional Teacher Coach
Warren County School District
Warren, PA

Stacy Buchmoyer said...

I enjoyed how this book showed President Lincoln from a perspective not quickly found in other books. To his boys, he was their father and his love of his sons is evident throughout this novel. This book is a quick read but it captures the feelings of its audience right from the start. I can see students from third grade and up enjoying this book. I highly recommend it!

Susan Appleton said...

I absolutely LOVED this book! I loved the personal look it gave Lincoln......this iconic man who is more humanized in this book told from the point of view of his two sons, Tad and Willie! The pictures inside the book are also just breathtaking!!!!! I love the warm feelings that the sons expressed for their father! To them, he was just that.....their Dad!
Great book and great pictures...definitely worthy of a "5". I can't wait to share this one with my students!

Ursula said...

What a great book with fabulous illustrations! It was neat to read about stories from Lincoln's time through the sons' points of view. This will definitely be a resource for me when learning about President's Day. It is alos a great biography for fourth graders. It deserves a 5!

PLLoggerR said...

Rosemary Wells' Lincoln and His Boys is a biography that is sure to please elementary aged children and appeal to reluctant readers. This biography is different--it is told from his sons' points of view. So we learn about Lincoln as a caring father who takes a son on a trip, who lets his children interupt meetings, and who makes time for his family even while commanding a war. It is a warm story, with overshadows of life outside the Lincoln family during the Civil War. There are enough talking points throughout the book, both in the text and the illustrations by P. J. Lynch, to draw in readers of all levels.

Highly recommended - a picnic basket 5!

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

This is a great introduction to Lincoln for young readers, especially (but not limited to) boys. The story shows insight into one of our finest Presidents who lived at a tumultuous time.

Lincoln's love for his family shines through in this gripping account of Lincoln's years raising a family.

I rate this book a 5!

Zion Lutheran School Library. said...

Lincoln and His Boys
By Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by P.J. Lynch
Picnic Basket Rating: 5 out of 5

The title sets the tone of this book right away. Instead of ‘Lincoln and His Sons’ which implies a more formal relationship, Rosemary Wells chose ‘Lincoln and His Boys’, a word choice that depicts a relationship of warmth and love. Here, Wells focuses on Abraham Lincoln as a father, seen through the eyes of his sons Tad and Willie. Young readers read about Lincoln rough-housing with Willie and comforting Tad when he’s sad. We learn of his patient tolerance of the boys’ interruptions and his delight in their playfulness. As Tad and Willie tell us about their father, illustrator P.J. Lynch brings these word pictures to life. His illustrations are breathtaking. They make Lincoln, Tad and Willie people that young readers can relate to, characters that lived long ago but did many of the things readers do with their own fathers today. Wells and Lynch make Lincoln much more approachable and easier to relate to for young readers than as a ‘statesman’ and ‘emancipator’. On a practical note, the book’s size and numerous pictures make ‘Lincoln and His Boys’ a good read-aloud as well as a book 3rd – 5th graders can tackle on their own. This is a Lincoln book worthy to be in every library’s Lincoln collection.

Karen Sutera
Zion Lutheran School
Marengo, IL

Martine Battista said...

What a charming read! I think this would make a great read aloud. Even though there are already many Lincoln books in our collection, this will make a fantastic addition. It is the only one we have that really gives you a feel for his family life. Well done! I rate it a 4.
Denair Elementary School Library
Denair, CA

Kristin said...

I very much enjoyed this beautifully illustrated book about Abraham Lincoln and his role as father. Told by Tad and Willie, I found this to be a great way to introduce my students to Abraham Lincoln. They very much enjoyed learning about their antics in the White House, especially when they wanted to start a campfire on the White House roof. It's obvious that Lincoln cherished his role as father and the distraction it provided during the stressful days of the Civil War. I give this book a 4.

Kristin Gehrke
4th grade teacher
Eldora, IA

Mary said...

Lincoln and His Boys is told through the voices of Tad and Willie Lincoln. The book focuses on the boys’ relationship with their father while it includes many facts about Lincoln’s life and the Civil War era United States. The book speaks of the daily life of the Lincoln family before Abraham Lincoln became president and throughout his presidency. Lincoln is shown to be a kind and loving father who cherished his family. Wells does not shy away from the sad times in Lincoln’s family. Tad’s cleft plate and learning difficulties, Willie’s death, Mary Todd Lincoln’s depression, and Abraham Lincoln’s sadness over the many deaths in Civil War battles are dealt with as seen through the eyes of child. The book ends shortly before Lincoln’s assassination.
Rosemary Wells ends her book with an author’s note outlining where she got much of her information for Lincoln and His Boys.
Lincoln and His Boys will make a great read aloud for a classroom teacher. Students will gain a feel for the Civil War era United States and the hardships faced by a family that helped to shape our nation.
I rate this book a five.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful book!!!

This book would a wonderful compliment to any U.S. government program or U.S. history program. What a wonderful way to show how a president's family can come first even before a nation.

Well done!!!

Debra J. Briley
Reading Specialist and educator

webervyn said...

I read this book to my students the week of Abe's birthday. We absolutely loved it (5th grade). I twas excellent for talking about perspective because it is written from Abe's boys point of view and it also had some wonderful history lessons in it, put into kid terms. Wish it was longer!! We also were able to talk about the genre of historical fiction since it comes from letters written by his boy. This made is more exciting for the kids knowing that the letters were hundreds of years old! thank you thank you picnic basket!!

kokomana said...

Lincoln and His Boys
By: Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by: P.J. Lynch

This is an interesting book. I’d recommend this book for third and fourth graders who like historical fiction. Two parts of the book are told by Willie, while the third part switches to Tad’s point of view. I like the child-like feel of the book, and it seems to really put the reader in Tad and Willie’s world. The made-up words and period slang add much to the reading as well. The illustrations are nice as well, and while very traditional still present an empathetic Lincoln. Overall, a very approachable book about Lincoln as a family man, and not as the venerable president.

Rating: 4

Monica Bildner
Assistant Librarian
St. Rita School
Dallas TX