For the Love of Lincoln


The artist Maira Kalman spent a year blogging about democracy for the New York Times, and her stylish and witty illustrations and personal observations were aptly turned into a book called The Pursuit of Happiness. Along this journey, she ‘fell in love with Abraham Lincoln” and has subsequently written an equally gorgeous and charming children’s book called Looking at Lincoln. If you saw her show Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World) at the Skirball a year ago, you remember her signature style of illustration.

If you’re likewise a lover of Lincoln, you should grab this book as a way of celebrating his contribution to your upcoming three day weekend. It’s full of quirky observations (Kalman thought that perhaps Abe’s favorite dog was cross-eyed), but also highlights his most famous quotes, such as “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”  A succinct and simple statement, if ever there was one.

Kids will get a sense of Mary Todd and the children, you’ll smile at Kalman’s whimsical sensibility and the quick journey leaves readers on the steps of at the Lincoln Memorial. After all, no childhood would be complete without being taken up those monumental stairs, spending a few reverent moments under Abe’s gentle, marbled gaze and turning back out to see the reflecting pool, the Washington Memorial and the Capital, all lined up.

I recently had dinner with Georgia Bragg, an Angeleno and author of How They Croaked, a chock-full-of-gore compendium of the odd facts around the death of some very famous folk, including another President, George Washington. Everyone knows about Abe’s untimely end, but do your kids know that our first president died of a simple infection in his mouth that could have been remedied today with a simple antibiotic? The story includes the grisly details of doctors blood-letting poor George, and a terrible set of dentures. The whole gnarly book is required reading for those who desire to gross-out their friends! Good for middle-school readers, who might find some cool science or history paper topics in here!

2012 is going to be a big year for Abe. Daniel Day Lewis is playing him in a Steven Spielberg film called Lincoln that comes out later this year. The film was taken from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s beloved book, Team of Rivals, and was written by John Logan (who brought us both Hugo and Rango this year).

Do you think Lewis can capture Lincoln in a way we’ll all love?