cover image Honest Abe

Honest Abe

Edith Kunhardt. Greenwillow Books, $16 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-688-11189-2

Striking folk-art paintings more than compensate for a thuddingly flat text in this picture book biography of Abraham Lincoln. Apparently written to fit the illustrations, the choppy, teacherly prose often hinders the narrative drive, as in this description of Lincoln and Mary Todd's courtship: ``Mary was twenty-one years old. Abe was thirty. Mary was popular. She liked dancing and spoke French. Abe and Mary were married.'' In this vein Kunhardt ( Pat the Cat ; Red Day, Green Day ) reports all the familiar episodes: Lincoln's childhood in a log cabin, his debates with Douglas, the assassination by ``a man who was furious at the President for freeing the slaves.'' But the paintings vivify the story, commanding attention with vibrant greens, blues, reds and yellows. No staid portraits here! Placed one to each oversize page with generous trim as if hung on a wall, they are seemingly unpolished but genuinely American, much like the man they commemorate. Ages 5-up. (Jan.)