Everything feels fresh and captivating when rendered into a Maira Kalman illustration. Author of The Principle of Uncertainty, the illustrator of Strunk and White's Elements of Style, and over a dozen children's book titles, I can't get enough of Kalman's quirky, gouache paintings, handwritten text, and curious musings, seamlessly weaving art, humor, journaling, and history into one big wonderful discourse.
Kalman's narrator sees a lanky looking fellow with a stovepipe hat that reminds her of someone. After a breakfast of pancakes she pays with a Lincoln and two Washington's, and then remembers the man looked exactly like Abraham Lincoln. She goes to the library to find out more and becomes entirely smitten with the 16th president. Her curiosity takes us from Lincoln's log cabin in Kentucky, to the rocking chair where he was assassinated, and finally to D.C. during cherry blossom season for a visit to the Lincoln Memorial.
Along the way she finds out what he loved (his dog Fido, apples, Mozart's
The Magic Flute). How he hid notes in his hat. She wonders if Abe and his wife Mary had nicknames for each other. "Did she call him Linky?" And more importantly she learns about his passion for truth, justice, and desire to abolish slavery.
You can only cover so much in a 32 page children's book about one of America's greatest figures, but Looking at Lincoln provides more than a really wonderful introduction full of lively artwork, it makes history feel lovable.
(Images: Ben Partridge)