Category Archives: Nonfiction

Day 43 – Abe Lincoln, the Boy Who Loved Books

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday – and in his honor we had a holiday bundle tonight: three books about the life of our sixteenth president. Of the three, the consensus favorite was  “Abe Lincoln – the Boy Who Loved Books” by Kay Winters.abe1 The stories in each book overlapped each other to a certain extent, and all were full of anecdotes about “Honest Abe”. The thing that took the day for Ms. Winters’ storybook was the illustrations – which were quaint and colorful oil paintings in an old-fashioned style. It also had the biggest pages of our three books tonight, which made it easier to share the illustrations with everyone around the table.

Each selection this evening was geared toward a younger audience – with the focus on Abe’s childhood and formative years. Each emphasized the importance of books in his life, talked about how Abe was mostly self-taught (he only attended school for one year!), and how he was awakened as a young man to the evils of slavery. Our favorite book did not discuss the Civil War, although that subject was covered, however briefly, in our other two books. None mentioned his assassination by John Wilkes Booth, but all three stressed how he understood and harnessed the power of words to inspire people in his time, and still today.

The other two books this evening, while not favorites, are still worth checking out – and we will be reading them again:

  • “I Am Abraham Lincoln” by Brad Meltzer is oneAbe 2 of many biographies for children by this author. The book’s size makes it just right for smaller hands and the narrative is simple and direct. These facts along with illustrations – reminiscent of Calvin & Hobbes – which portray the subject as a small boy throughout may make this storybook particularly attractive to little ones…if they can get past Abe Lincoln presented as a toddler with a beard.
  • “My Best Friend, Abe Lincoln” by Robert L. Bloch providesAbe 3 an account of many of the same events covered in tonight’s other storybooks, but the story is told from the point of view of a fictional best friend. It was a different sort of angle, and the idea of being best friends with a young Abe Lincoln may be compelling to some readers or listeners. We enjoyed the change of pace…and our little one has asked to read this particular book several times now.


Day 39 – The Busy Body Book

We have always enjoyed finding fun, colorful, reality-based books that could capture our girls’ interest and help them understand a little bit more about the world around them. “The Busy Body Book” by Lizzy Rockwell falls in this category. busy bodySubtitled “A Kid’s Guide to Fitness”, the book shows all manner of ways in which kids can be active – and the various systems within their body that they employ or stimulate when they do so (skeletal, nervous, pulmonary, etc.)

Our youngest is particularly fond of this book; we have read it to her countless times. While she enjoys the entire book, her favorite two pages are at nearly the very end: a two-page spread of pictures showing children engaged in all kinds of physical activities. She gets a kick out of having one of us tell her what the child in each of the 40 illustrations is doing. I wish I could tell you exactly what it is about those two pages that captures her attention – but I rarely stop to ask the question; her glowing smile is the only explanation I need.

Day 18 – “What Was Your Dream, Dr. King?”

This evening we read the first of what we hope to be many holiday themed books this year. Today, our first holiday “theme” was Martin Luther King Day – and we picked out a couple books (one of which we read aloud ourselves and one of which was read to us).

Our first book was read to us by LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow – via YouTube : “A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr.” by David Adler.MLK To watch the video, we pulled the computer monitor up to the dinner table and heard about how Martin Luther King, Jr. became the leader of the Civil Rights Movement. We followed up the YouTube video with our own book: “What Was Your Dream, Dr King?” by Mary Kay Carson, which asked and answered questions about Martin Luther King’s life, his philosophy, and his accomplishments. mLK2Both books provided not only a great opportunity to learn more about MLK, but the background discussion of the legacy of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s provided a nice bookend to our first two extended read-aloud books: “Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

For extended read-aloud, we began “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller – a “great American novel” that I really enjoyed reading when I was in high-school with a title that has become part of the English language in its own right – that’s some catch, that Catch-22.Catch 22 Unfortunately, I think it was not to be…at least for now. We had some trouble getting everyone’s attention this evening – whether it was the book or not, I think we will look for something different tomorrow and save this one for later. It’s still a great book, but maybe not the right book for the time being.