A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary
By Candace Fleming
(Schwartz & Wade Books, Hardcover, 9780375836183, 181pp.)
Publication Date: October 14, 2008
List Price: $24.99*
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Here are the extraordinary lives of Abraham and Mary, from their disparate childhoods and tumultuous courtship, through the agony of the Civil War, to the loss of three of their children, and finally their own tragic deaths. Readers can find Mary's recipe for Abraham's favorite cake--and bake it themselves; hear what Abraham looked like as a toddler; see a photo of the Lincolns' dog; discover that the Lincoln children kept goats at the White House; see the Emancipation Proclamation written in Lincoln''s own hand. Perfect for reluctant readers as well as history lovers, "The Lincolns "provides a living breathing portrait of a man, a woman, and a country.
I told such a good story that people always thought I was telling the truth. But I wasn't. I didn't have a three-legged cat or a ghost in my attic, and I'd certainly never been to Paris, France. I simply enjoyed telling a good story . . . and seeing my listener's reaction.
Sure, some people might have said I was a seven-year-old fibber. But not my parents. Instead of calling my stories "fibs" they called them "imaginative." They encouraged me to put my stories down on paper. I did. And amazingly, once I began writing, I couldn't stop. I filled notebook after notebook with stories, poems, plays. I still have many of those notebooks. They're precious to me because they are a record of my writing life from elementary school on.
In second grade, I discovered a passion for language. I can still remember the day my teacher, Ms. Johnson, held up a horn-shaped basket filled with papier-mache pumpkins and asked the class to repeat the word "cornucopia." I said it again and again. I tasted the word on my lips. I tested it on my ears. That afternoon, I skipped all the way home from school chanting "Cornucopia! Cornucopia!" From then on, I really began listening to words -- to the sounds they made, and the way they were used, and how they made me feel. I longed to put them together in ways that were beautiful and yet told a story.
As I grew, I continued to write stories. But I never really thought of becoming an author. Instead, I went to college, where I discovered yet another passion -- history. I didn't realize it then, but studying history was really just an extension of my love of stories. After all, some of the best stories are true ones -- tales of heroism and villainy made more incredible by the fact they really happened.
After graduation, I got married and had children. I read to them a lot, and that's when I discovered the joy and music of children's books. I simply couldn't get enough of them. With my two sons in tow, I made endless trips to the library. I read stacks of books. I found myself begging, "Just one more, pleeeease!" while my boys begged for lights-out and sleep. Then it struck me. Why not write children's books? It seemed the perfect way to combine all the things I loved -- stories, musical language, history, and reading. I couldn't wait to get started.
But writing children's books is harder than it sounds. For three years, I wrote story after story. I sent them to publisher after publisher. And I received rejection letter after rejection letter. Still, I didn't give up. I kept trying until finally one of my stories was pulled from the slush pile and turned into a book. My career as a children's author had begun.
Candace Fleming lives in Mount Prospect, Illinois.
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2008:
"The scrapbook technique . . . remains fresh and lively, a great way to provide a huge amount of information in a format that invites both browsing and in-depth study."
Starred Review, Booklist, September 15, 2008:
"Fleming offers another standout biographical title, this time twining accounts of two lives—Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln—into one fascinating whole."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, October 2008:
"It's hard to imagine a more engaging or well-told biography of the Lincolns."
Starred Review, Horn Book Magazine, November/December 2008:
"Fleming is able to compare and contrast the president with his first lady, giving us not only greater insight into each of them but also a fuller picture of the world in which they lived."
Review, New York Times Book Review, November 9, 2008:
"The format of 'The Lincolns' may be aimed at young readers, but, given Candace Fleming's unerring eye for the dramatic quotation (with the Lincolns, there were a lot of those), this birth-to-death biography of Mary and Abraham is hard to put down even for readers who know the story."
Review, New York Times Book Review, November 16, 2008:
"This dual biography is hard to put down, even if you know the story."