Laurinda’s Rating: 4/5
Lincoln A Photobiography, the 1988 Newbery Medal Winner, is one of the few nonfiction Newbery books. The nonfiction to this point has been an unqualified disaster, either horrifically racist or incredibly tedious. This was a surprisingly decent exploration of Abraham Lincoln; it provides context on external events for those new to the topic but employs enough interesting primary source material to retain the attention of those who do have some background in history.
Freeman balances the time he spends on each segment of Lincoln’s life, putting a slight emphasis on the presidential years but also discussing Lincoln’s early life, his entry into politics, and his family life. Lincoln’s changing view of and approach to slavery is one of the themes highlighted by Freeman. In Freeman’s account, Lincoln always disliked slavery but originally believed that, as long as its spread to the newly opened western territories was prohibited, it would die a natural death. As late as the first years of the Civil War, Lincoln favored reparations for slaveholders. Only later in the war did he champion abolition as a military necessity, coupling that with a hard-line view of slavery as a moral evil. I appreciate Freeman’s even-handed approach to his subject; he cautions the reader about the dangers of turning a historical figure into a hero and avoids that temptation himself. He also discusses the sources which he used for each section of the book. As an archivist and a historian, citations are my favorite 😉
I’d highly recommend this for late elementary or early middle school readers interested in history. It’d also be great for time-pressed adults who want to brush up on their U.S. history. I found the book quite readable and accurate within its scope.