Looking at Lincoln

Maira Kalman. Penguin/Paulsen, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-24039-3
As she did in The Principles of Uncertainty, Kalman transforms digital material—in this case, her New York Times illustrated column “In Love with A. Lincoln”—into analogue format. Kalman’s fond and bittersweet account of our lanky 16th president evokes both a schoolgirl crush (“I got lost in photos of his unusual face.... I could look at him forever”) and a Yankee’s steely, sorrowful perspective on the price of freedom (still lifes include a bullet-torn Civil War uniform and John Wilkes Booth’s pistol). Abstract gouaches—ranging from tangy colors to dolorous grays—put a contemporary spin on the iconic log cabin, Springfield house, stovepipe hat, and “his favorite vanilla cake” with ribbons of red icing. Portraits include a pensive Lincoln, seated alone or with family (“He was thinking about... doing good for mankind. And maybe he was also thinking about getting a birthday present for his little son”); Sojourner Truth; and Lincoln’s pale-eyed stepmother, wearing a severe bonnet and black dress à la Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein. Rather than pen a textbook profile, Kalman portrays heartfelt admiration through poignant imagery. Ages 5–8. Agent: Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/05/2011
Release date: 01/01/2012
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