Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sarah Dessen

I haven't written about the teen side of "From Tots to Teens" spectrum in a while.  I had been itching to write about teen books for a few months, but nothing seemed right.  And then after Christmas, I got a Facebook message from a friend, asking why I hadn't read Sarah Dessen's latest book, What Happened to Goodbye.  I wasn't sure why I hadn't, actually - I had bought it, more than a year ago, in hardcover.  It has basketball in it, my favorite sport.  I love Sarah Dessen's books and read them frequently, recommending them to friends.  And when my friend posted that question, I was looking for a good read.  I picked it up and read it in two days.  Then I went back to some of my favorite Sarah Dessen novels, because I was sick, searching, and badly in need of comfort reading.  In two weeks, I read four Sarah Dessen novels! Then another friend mentioned she had the Advance Readers' Copy of The Moon and More, her newest novel, which was very exciting!  I read that one in two days also!

I've read these books several times at different points in my life.  This time, I took four books (Just Listen, Lock and Key, Along for the Ride, and What Happened to Goodbye) and decided to write about one particular theme that was resonating with me.  Maybe it's because I'm a mom now, maybe it's just what has been on my mind lately.  Not only did I need comfort reading, but I needed to see families - all kinds of families.  They are all represented in Dessen's books.  Good ones, bad ones, healthy ones, dysfunctional ones.  What I think is most interesting about the way Dessen portrays these families is how the central characters, all teenagers, change how they see their families - their flaws, their good moments.  It connects the teens to their own families for a moment in time, and it can be magic.  

In Just Listen, Annabel is holding on to secrets.  She has spent the whole summer pretending that things will be the same when school starts, but of course, they aren't.  Her best friend, Sophie, hates her, has rejected her, and because Sophie is popular, now it feels like everyone is against Annabel.  This book is really about Annabel, about how this secret changes her, and how her relationship with Owen, who is one of my favorite teenage boy characters - I won't spoil that for you!

Annabel is the youngest of three sisters - Kirsten is the oldest, and Whitney is the middle sister.  The time of this novel is a time of growth, reflection and change for all three sisters.  Annabel describes a photo taken before these events: "In the picture, we are all intertwined: Kirsten's fingers are wrapped in my mother's, Whitney has her arm over her shoulder and I'm in front, curved slightly toward my mom as well, my arm around her waist." (p. 79).  Before the novel takes place (the picture was taken three years prior), the girls are a cohesive unit, a very visible family - all touching.  Throughout the year before the book starts, the girls have grown apart.  They are all struggling with their own issues and some of their problems are causing cracks in the family relationships.

Then all three of the girls are separately reminded of an incident that took place on the day of Annabel's ninth birthday party.  The incident is important to each of the girls for different reasons, and they each remember it differently.  Annabel reflects "So many versions of just one memory, and yet none of them were right or wrong.  Instead, they were all pieces.  Only when fitted together, edge to edge, could they even begin to tell the whole story." (p. 236).  And to me, this exemplifies families - everyone in the family remembers things or experiences them slightly differently.  It is the mosaic that makes the whole picture.  Even this novel isn't the whole story of the family. Thinking about the family portrait I mentioned earlier, Annabel realizes "...that was just one day, one shot.  In the time since, we had arranged and rearranged ourselves so many times...All i had to do was ask, and I, too, would be easily brought back, surrounded and immersed, finding myself safe, somewhere in between." (p. 353).  In this novel, the sisters are reunited through the ways they change.  They grow together, instead of apart.

In Lock & Key, Ruby has no family to speak of in the beginning.  She has been discovered living in a house without power after her mother left her.  Ruby has been doing her best to stay afloat, but it isn't enough, and she is turned over to her older sister, Cora.  In Ruby's eyes, Cora abandoned her family when she went off to college and never returned.  So Ruby really doesn't want to be with Cora and her husband, Jamie, at all.  She feels like Cora must hate her and her mom.  Ruby thinks she would be better off on her own.

While in the prep school Cora and Jamie send her to, Ruby is given an assignment.  She must define a word pulled out of a jar, and the word Ruby pulls out is 'family'.  What Ruby learns about herself, the family she was born into, and the family she creates through this extended assignment.  In this novel, Dessen creates a mother who isn't very likable.  In fact, while Ruby sees some of her mother's flaws, she works around them, mostly because she is a minor and has to cope with her mother.  As the book progresses and Ruby settles into a different life and family, the reader begins to realize how at her best, Ruby's mother was dysfunctional.  At her worst, she was addicted and abusive.  It is hard for me as a mother to read about Ruby's recollections of her mother.  But that was Ruby's life and she made it work until it doesn't work anymore.  

Finally, part of Ruby's realization about family pulls together these disparate lives she has been living - the poor, dysfunctional barely-making-it life, and the rich, comfortable, healthy life she lives now.  Ruby thinks "What is family?  They were the people who claimed you.  In good, in bad, in parts or in whole, they were the ones who showed up, who stayed in there, regardless..." (p. 400).  Ruby isn't perfect - after all, she has lived a life that has made her tough and resilient, but also suspicious and untrusting.  But she has found a perfect way to balance the family she has with the family she has come from in a way that works for her.

Auden from Along for the Ride doesn't have a perfect family either.  She has lived with her mother since her parents divorced.  Her mother is aloof, someone who is tightly controlled.  She is an academic and at the top of her field.  But that means Auden is mostly on her own.  Her father's new wife, Heidi, has invited Auden to stay with them the summer after graduation.  Her father is trying to write his second novel, one he has been working on for years.  Heidi just had a baby.  Auden's mother promises that Auden's father will be no help at all with the baby, just as he was with Auden and her brother.  All Auden knows is that she needs to try something new.  So she travels to Colby, a beach town where Heidi and her dad live.  And she has her carefully planned life and expectations turned upside down.

Auden has always felt that "school was my solace, and studying let me escape, allowing me to live a thousand vicarious lives." (p. 9).  She has spent her whole life trying to get her parents' attention and their approval by rigidly sticking to academic success.  After all, both of her parents have succeeded in the academic world.  This summer she is beginning to realize that while she spent all this time studying, she was missing doing all the things regular kids do.  She doesn't have a lot of friends - she studied too hard for that.  And Auden hasn't had a food fight, gone to a party.  This summer in Colby, she is beginning to understand the freedom that comes from not living up to anyone's expectations.

One of the things that is made most clear in this Dessen novel is how teenagers, those getting ready to spread their wings, begin to change how they see their parents.  But Auden, who has grown up hearing stories her mother has told about her father, begins to experience her parents' flaws firsthand.  Her mother told Auden about her stepmother, Heidi, "' I just hope she's not expecting your father to be of much help,' she said...'I was lucky if he changed a diaper every once in a while.'" (p. 13).  After Heidi and Auden's father have a fight, Auden realizes "My dad might have made an effort to sound like he would compromise.  But again, he had gotten his way." (p. 216).  And Auden's mother doesn't like how Auden is spreading her wings this summer either: "'I spend eighteen years teaching you about the importance of taking yourself seriously, and in a matter of weeks you're wearing pink bikinis and totally boy crazy.'" (. 252).  Auden has to learn how to become herself, which involves learning to see her relationship with her parents as it is and as it might become.

In What Happened to Goodbye, Mclean has spent the last three years moving with her father from town to town, rehabilitating poorly run restaurants.  Her parents divorced and Mclean decided to choose living with her father.  The reason for the divorce seems straight-forward at the start of the novel.  Mclean's mother had an affair with the head basketball coach at Defriese University, the college in their town.  Not only is the affair a matter of local gossip, but her father has always been a huge Defriese basketball fan, so Mclean feels like her mother's choice is even more personal.  Mclean has kept her mother at arm's length for a long time.  She feels that "my mother wanted control over me, and I wouldn't give it to her.  It made me crazy, so she in turn made me crazy." (p. 82).

Mclean has taken her father's side in the divorce, no matter how much he insists that she spend time with her mother and her now-husband.  After spending some time with her mom, Mclean begins to realize that maybe keeping herself away from her mom for so long has hurt more than she thought.  "I must have seemed like such a stranger to her...both of us wading through this limbo world between what we'd been and what we might be.  Like seeing her from a distance earlier, this thought made me unexpectedly sad.." (p. 183-4).  Mclean, too, must come to terms with what has happened between her parents.  Of course, as an adult, I know that divorce isn't just one person's fault.  Mclean has to see this for herself, though, as part of the process of growing up.

Finally, The Moon and More.  I don't want to say anything much about it, since I read it before its publication date in June.  I'll just say that in this novel, Emaline has an unusual family structure, too.  She has grown up in an extended step-family, with stepsisters who she works with in a daily basis.  Emaline hasn't had much contact with her biological father until this summer.  Her interactions with both parts of her family tugged at my heart.  It is a great book, one that combines some of the best of Sarah Dessen's themes with some new ideas.

Finally, I'll end with a line from one of Frances & Gloria's current favorite movies, Hotel Transylvania, which also has a teenager spreading her wings in it.  "Children have to discover things for themselves.  They'll stumble and fall, laugh and cry, but such is life."  Part of discovering things for themselves is seeing their families for what they really are, not just what they have always hoped they might be.

Just Listen.  Sarah Dessen.  Viking, 2006.
Lock & Key. Sarah Dessen.  Speak: Penguin, 2008.
Along for the Ride. Sarah Dessen.  Speak: Penguin, 2009.
What Happened to Goodbye. Sarah Dessen. Viking, 2011.
The Moon and More.  Sarah Dessen.  Viking, 2013.

Just Listen and Lock & Key borrowed from Lewis & Clark Library, Along for the Ride and What Happened to Goodbye from personal collection.  The Moon and More read in Advanced Readers Copy.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sleep Like a Tiger

Bedtime is always a difficult time, and my house is no exception.  There are days when I've done my job well, the girls tumble into bed on time, and I don't hear another word from them until morning.  On the nights that bedtime doesn't work successfully for us, their bedroom seems to have a revolving door.  First it's Frances saying she needs to go to the bathroom, then it's Gloria saying she's thirsty, then Frances is back again to tell me Gloria is reading too loud and keeping her awake.  Finally, Gloria comes slithering back down the hall, silently, wanting to tell me "one more thing".  On the worst nights, they both cry before they fall asleep.  I've mentioned before how one of my favorite programs to do at the library was always bedtime storytime.  I love the cadence of a good bedtime story; how it winds a child down into relaxation and quiet.  It has the capability to turn a bad night around and guide a child into slumber.

I only heard about Sleep Like a Tiger after it won a Caldecott Honor in January.  Once I got it, I was sorry I hadn't been shouting its praises since it had been published.  This book is a terrific bedtime story.  It combines a wise, elegant bedtime story with magical illustrations - a combination dreams are made of.

The story starts with a little girl who doesn't want to go to sleep.  Arms folded, stuffed animals scattered around her, she tells her mother "I'm not tired.".  She tells her father the same thing.  In a united stance, her mother and father nod their heads and tell her while she doesn't have to sleep, she has to put on her pajamas.  And so the little girl does, putting on pajamas "that matched the night sky".  The little girl, still insisting she isn't tired,  then washes her face and brushes her teeth and climbs into bed.  She then, like all procrastinating children, starts up a conversation about the animals of the world and their sleep patterns.  Her parents calmly discuss their dog, their cat, bats, whales, snails, bears and last of all, the mighty tiger.  The little girl informs her parents that the tiger sleeps as much as possible so "that way he stays strong".  They turn out the lights, and the little girl, all tucked in, tells them again that she isn't sleepy.  They say good night, and she relaxes into her bed "a cocoon of sheets, a nest of blankets".  Soon enough, she mimics the way all of those animals fall asleep, and you guessed it - falls asleep.

As a parent, I was struck by a couple of things about this story.  Bedtime is one of the most chaotic times, especially in a working household.  The hours between when we get home and bedtime are filled with "must-dos" - dinner, clean up, baths, stories, bed.  The nights churn by quickly - some nights I look up and realize it's 7:30 and we need to hurry into pajamas and stories.  This story is calm and soothing from the first page.  There is no arguing about bedtime as there is in so many homes.  The parents, who go through the whole routine together, united, simply accept what the little girl says and proceed calmly on.  Because the little girl seems to have control of her bedtime, she goes to sleep more quickly.  She doesn't have to protest very loudly or throw any fits to get her point across.  She is heard and can then acknowledge how comfortable her bed really is.  Her parents, once they get her in bed and turn off the light, tell her "You can stay awake all night long" and leave the room.  They give the little girl space to be herself and enter sleep on her own terms.  In a dark room, surrounded by stuffed animals, and quiet, it doesn't take her long to doze off.  Genius!

This is Logue's first picture book.  Her jacket biography describes her as a poet, and this text is poetic indeed.  While I've already cited several worthy snippets of text, my favorite part is when the little girl gets into bed.  "She did, stretching her toes down under the crisp sheets, lying as still as an otter floating in a stream."  Simple enough for children to understand and related to, but gorgeously described.  After all, I feel that very same way when I get under my own sheets.  Logue has created a story that children can relate to, parents will understand and the words will resonate for all long after the book is closed.

And I haven't even talked about the illustrations yet!  As you know, the Caldecott medal is given each year for illustrations.  So Zagarenski won a Caldecott honor for this book's illustrations.  I loved her other Caldecott honor winning book, Red Sings from Treetops, and was excited that she had won again.  Her style combines computer illustration with mixed media paintings on wood.  It is a magical, whimsical combination, and one that begs to be looked at over and over again.  There are things I've noticed in my repeated readings of this book, and I know there are still more details to be seen.

The colors are soothing - mostly icy blues, golds and browns, with pops of red throughout.  The other pop of color on each page comes from the little girl's clothing - her dress on the first pages is a chalky red which stands out, making the girl easily findable in the busy paintings.  When she changes into her pajamas, which "match the night sky", they are a rich, unusual blue.  There is a white diamond pattern all over the girl's pajamas to mimic the stars, and at points the stars seem to twinkle.  Again, Zagarenski's choice of clothing makes the little girl the focus on every page.

There is so much texture and pattern in Zagarenski's paintings, and the overall effect is one of layered coziness.  This is one of those instances where author and illustrator complement each other perfectly.  These paintings supplement Logue's text and extend it.  One of the little details that add to the text is the fact that that the mother, father, and little girl all wear similar crowns.  Are they a royal family? Maybe, maybe not.  It doesn't really matter, but it is one of those things that adds to your enjoyment of the story.  The little girl carries stuffed animals with her throughout the book, and they mostly include the animals she asks about - the bear, the whale, the dog, and of course, the tiger.  There are details layered upon details in this book.  One of the things I wonder about is Zagarenski's inclusion of wheels on almost every page - sometimes animals ride on wheels, sometimes the wheels serve as decoration.  One of my favorite, whimsical uses of the wheels are under the father's feet in a particular painting.

This book is rich in text and illustration.  The story is immediately recognizable by parent and child alike.  The book is whimsical and realistic at the same time.  All in all, I can't resist saying that this book is dreamy.

Sleep Like a Tiger.  Mary Logue; illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Houghton Mifflin, 2012.

borrowed from Lewis & Clark Library

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Traveling Photographer Series

I love Cybils season for so many reasons.  One of those reasons is my exposure to books I would never have experienced on my own.  I have been on the Nonfiction Picture Book panel two years in a row, and both years I have read and blogged about books that are unusual.  One of those books this year was The Story of Silk: From Worm Spit to Woven Scarves.  When I first picked it up, I believed it would be about the science of making silk.  As I began to read, I realized this was more a book about a village, a culture, and a craft.  As I read further in the book, I became more intrigued by the story of this village in Thailand, where Richard Sobol had previously written and photographed another book in his Traveling Photographer series, The Life of Rice: From Seedling to Supper.  I wanted to know more about the village, and fortunately, my library carried The Life of Rice, so I could explore this country more.

Sobol originally travels to Thailand to help protect Thai wildlife.  As he traveled the country on that assignment, he began to become aware of the fields of rice he was traveling through, and initially looks at them as a photographer.  He is attracted to the strong colors and textures of the fields, the contrast with the villagers who work in those fields.  Then he is invited to an official royal event- the Royal Plowing Ceremony.  This ceremony kicks off the rice-growing season, and while it is ceremonial and symbolic, it is also very important to the Thai people.  The king scatters royal seeds and the families quickly gather the seeds, along with the soil, to replant in their own fields.

In this book, Sobol focuses on the Issan province, and on the jasmine rice that is grown there.  He describes the process from planting through harvesting, threshing, hulling and selling.  He details how for many Thai families, this is their business - children come after school to help weed and tend to the rice fields, while the adults work all day long.  For almost every family, this is a very labor-intensive, manual process.  Only the richest farmers can afford to rent a combine, but that is only used in one part of this cycle.  The rest of it - planting, transplanting, weeding, etc., is all done by hand, bent over in the fields.  At the end of the season, families sell off most of their crop, saving only a few bags for their food for the rest of the year.  However, no part of the rice plant goes to waste.  The rice stalks are used for cooking fuel, in their gardens, or as food for their livestock.

In the preface to The Story of Silk, Sobol describes how he returned to Thailand with copies of The Life of Rice, to share it with the people of Issan province.  He goes to Thailand at a different time of year than his previous trip, and realizes that there is a whole new industry taking place at that time of year - silk-making.  Rice cannot grow during the dry season, and so he begins to investigate another fascinating craft.  Sobol begins with the silkworm (did you know it's not really a worm?) which must eat mulberry leaves constantly for 28 days.  Again, the process of creating silk is labor-intensive and requires the help of the entire village.  The leaves must be replaced regularly, worms must be covered so they don't get too hot, worm cocoons must be cleaned carefully... Sobol does a great job of getting into the details of the process that will interest young readers without overwhelming them with the individual tasks.  And there are many more tasks in this book that will be good for a horrified groan from readers - silkworms are boiled and eaten (again, as in the rice cycle, nothing is wasted).  By the end of the book, readers have gained a real appreciation for the hard work behind what is presented to us as consumers.  They may not look at a bag of rice in the grocery store in the same way again, and may take more of an interest in the fabric their clothes are created from.

Of course, in a series called "Traveling Photographer", the photographs are remarkable.  The colors are rich and vibrant, and Sobol's photographs help define and delineate the text.  But where I think Sobol has a real gift is in conveying some of the Thai culture simply through documenting their work.  You can see clothing, houses, family relations, royalty and more through his lens.  He doesn't just show their livelihood, but also their lives.  The books are full of photographs, which lend life to the text.  Every page has at least one photograph on it, and many have two or three photographs to help readers envision what they are reading about.  Sobol has a sense for what readers would need clarification on, or have curiosity about, and that is what he photographs.

While both books focus on the same province of Thailand, they have very different tones.  In the first book, Sobol mentions how he travels the province to document the rice growing in the fields.  It is well described and documented, but there isn't a lot of detail about the people he meets on the trip.  It is constructed as a narrative, and you get the story of rice through the text and see the Thai culture shown more in the photos.  But in The Story of Silk, Sobol focuses on one village and that village comes to life both in photos and text.  He describes giggling young girls who tell him they will be the supermodels of silk.  Sobol writes about the men of the village, who laugh as they eat the boiled silkworms with red pepper sauce.  And he retells a weaving lesson given by a village woman named Auntie.  The book is more alive than The Life of Rice, although the first book only suffers in contrast.  They are both compelling stories, I just prefer the inclusion of the village life in the second book.

Both books include facts about rice and silk and a glossary with English and Thai words at the end of the book.  The Life of Rice also includes a list of rice-related holidays throughout the year and the translations of some Thai rice dish names, although no descriptions of the dishes.  These books give readers a sense of the real work behind products they experience on a regular basis.  But even more valuable to me is the very natural way these books become about Thai culture.  Taken together, Sobol has created a durable image of the Thai year, and how it centers around these simple, yet challenging industries.

The Life of Rice: From Seedling to Supper. (Traveling Photographer).  Richard Sobol.  Candlewick Press, 2010.
The Story of Silk: From Worm Spit to Woven Scarves. (Traveling Photographer).  Richard Sobol.  Candlewick Press, 2012.

Life of Rice borrowed from Lewis & Clark Library; Story of Silk sent by publisher as part of the Cybils panel.

Note: I am on the Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book panel, but this blog post does not represent the committee's thoughts about the book.  It only represents my personal ideas and thoughts.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Abe Lincoln's Dream

Abraham Lincoln has been the topic of much discussion lately. Of course, there was the multiple-Oscar nominated movie, with its Oscar-winning best actor.  I've already blogged about Looking for Lincoln, a book which gave facts about Abraham Lincoln a new, postmodern twist.  And here at the Murray house, Abraham Lincoln has taken on a great deal of importance since Presidents' Day.  Frances' teacher told her Kindergarten class some of Lincoln's biography, and she's been talking about him ever since.  We see a ramshackle wooden shed on the side of the freeway, and that is Lincoln's childhood log cabin home.  I've heard many times that his mother died when he was nine years old.  A few days ago, we were on our way home from dinner, and Gloria wanted me to turn on the car's interior light so she could color.  I explained that it was against the law, and Frances piped up and asked whether Abraham Lincoln made that law too.  Clearly, Abraham Lincoln is an important historical figure to Frances!

This picture book begins with the dogs.  The narrator mentions that three of last century's presidential dogs would not enter "that room".  The afterword explains that "that room" was the Lincoln Bedroom.  The narrator goes on to say that people saw his ghost on February 12th, but everyone was wearing stovepipe hats and beards (although astute readers will easily pick out the ghost peering out from behind a curtain).  Then a young girl named Quincy slips away from her school tour and sees the ghost of Abraham Lincoln poring over the Gettysburg Address.  They really see and acknowledge each other.  He tells her a couple of corny jokes and she politely laughs.  Lincoln admits during their conversation that he continues to have the same dream, over and over again: "It's always the same.  I'm on a ship sailing repeatedly for some shore I know not where."  Lincoln has been pacing through the White House while they've talked, with Quincy scrambling to catch up with his long legs.  He apologizes for being so restless, but tells her "...there was so much to do beyond 1865.  Our union was so fragile, so uncertain.  Like that ship on the rocky sea."  Quincy (and the reader) realizes that Lincoln has stayed because he doesn't know how things have turned out in history.  Quincy takes Abraham Lincoln on a flight around the world (Lincoln doing the flying), giving him updates along the way.  Later that night, the narrator says, Quincy herself has a dream.  "She dreamed of a man, a tall man in black, on a boat moving rapidly toward the rising sun."  It is, of course, Abraham Lincoln, with his worries and burdens now lightened, who is sailing off towards the sun.

This book is clever in a number of ways.  One of the ways I find it most clever is very subtle, and in fact took me several readings to discover and appreciate.  The book is titled Abe Lincoln's Dream, but his name is never mentioned in the text.  The President is referred to only as "he", or once as "the ghost", although he is described in all the traditional ways we've come to associate with Lincoln: the stovepipe hat and beard, tall, dressed in black.  The narrator comments the first time Quincy sees Lincoln: "He was dressed in black from hat to boot, but she wasn't frightened; he had a long face that made her feel sorry for him."  These descriptions are all things we know about Lincoln.  And of course, there are other textual references to his history as President.  The jokes, the references to 1865, his admiration of the Gettysburg Address and his question about whether the states are united all point to his identity without Smith having to name him at all.  And because of the preponderance of textual and illustrative clues, I can't help but wonder how many readers actually fail to notice that the ghost is unnamed.

Of course, Lane Smith's illustrations also help identify Lincoln.  Smith does an incredible job of walking the fine line between evoking the actual man himself and creating a character for this story.  His tall black stovepipe hat, his grasshopper-like legs and neatly trimmed beard all echo the portraits of Abraham Lincoln we can all call to mind.  The facial expressions, though, are pure Lane Smith.  My favorite one is when Abraham Lincoln throws his hand to his forehead, eyes closed, head bent back in a dramatic fashion.  The text at that moment is serious, but the look makes readers smile.  Similar to John, Paul, George & Ben, Smith takes a historical figure and pokes a little fun at him.  There is a lightness to much of this book that contradicts the sadness in Lincoln's long face.

Lane Smith is comfortable creating in that gray area between fact and fiction.  As I mentioned previously, the first pages of the book include several dogs owned by other presidents.  Smith cites each of the dogs, their Presidents(and which President they were), giving authenticity to the picture book.  But the most stunning fact of all is the fact that the morning of his assassination, Smith tells us, President Lincoln told members of his cabinet of a disturbing dream he'd had - the one he described in the text to Quincy.  It is an incredible connection for readers and re-emphasizes the fact that this dream kept the fictional character trapped in the Executive Mansion all these years.  It is truly an amazing book - enough fact to ground readers in information, enough fancy to help readers soar.  All I could wish for were some citations for Smith's afterword, but really it feels authentic without that information.  While this is a picture book, and a story, it is based in fact, and again straddles that gray area in between. 

As always, the book design (done by Lane Smith's wife, Molly Leach) is impeccable.  The book is a mix of historical and modern touches.  Quincy, Lincoln and the narrator all speak in different fonts which adds to the interest on each page.  But all of the fonts are clean and crisp, so the page never feels too cluttered, even with all three speaking on the same page.

I think the last thing I would like to mention about this book is its audience.  While Frances, a kindergartener, was interested in this book, I believe this book also rewards a more sophisticated, older reader.  This is the kind of book that appeals to Kindergarteners with its basic narrative thread.  They would enjoy Lincoln's silly, old-fashioned jokes.  A fifth grader would have learned more about Lincoln and the history of the United States and could appreciate some of the things  that aren't said here.  And a high schooler would also be familiar with the history here, and would not feel as if the narrator talked down to them.  It's a flexible, entertaining book, good for multiple levels and audiences.  I wish I had time to compare it to other books with characters flying through the sky, seeing the world around them, such as Tar Beach.  There are lots of ideas that come out of a well-written book,  Pick this one up, not to learn more about the facts of Lincoln's life, but to experience history through his eyes.

Abe Lincoln's Dream.  Lane Smith.  Roaring Brook Press, 2012.

borrowed from Lewis & Clark Library