I haven’t read the other non-fiction Newbery medalists. But from some comments on these volumes: The Story of Mankind, Invincible Louisa, Daniel Boone...moreI haven’t read the other non-fiction Newbery medalists. But from some comments on these volumes: The Story of Mankind, Invincible Louisa, Daniel Boone – they were often found lacking. My guess is that when Russell Freedman came along the committee was all kinds of giggles and gusto to have such a concise, accurate, and readable biography to add to the Newbery cannon. Lincoln: A Photobiography maintains a formal narrative distance from the reader, yet manages to string out a captivating life, up to the point where I was sobbing at the death I knew from the beginning would end the tale.
Russell is to be commended at maintaining a persistent pace. He never focuses overly long on one subject to the point where the reader grows weary of it. He also, without overtly stating it makes the case that this one person, Abraham Lincoln, held in his hands the directional destiny of our country. Left in other hands we may be living in an entirely different county today. This is never clearer than in the coverage Russell gives Lincoln’s reelection. I came away with a certainty that the war would have had an entirely different outcome if another had usurped the presidency.
Like myself, I find many children shy away from non-fiction, unless sports or hubcaps are involved. When I do find that rare child who chomps through the 900 section I am in not a little awe. In fact, it was a little dicey that I would get a chance to read my own library’s copy. As at the moment, I have an awe-inspiring 5th grader who is gobbling up biographies and US history books like they were M&Ms. She got her hands on the book before I had a chance to pull it, and I needed to beg to get it back. My hope is that - any child who gives this book a chance will be rewarded with a sense of pride and gratitude that such an intelligent and empathetic man was willing to give himself to our country. (less)
This epic begins with Nimrod, prophet/leader of a long-suffering people, offering a sacrifice to his god by way of smashing in the head of his favorit...moreThis epic begins with Nimrod, prophet/leader of a long-suffering people, offering a sacrifice to his god by way of smashing in the head of his favorite steed. Apparently the sacrifice works as Nimrod is immediately blessed with a vision foretelling of his people's deliverance to a land of promise and plenty. He sees the coming of the greatest of leaders -Attila, who will with "the mighty voice and wings red as blood" lead his people to their land of destiny. This mighty warrior is to enter the world through the line of one of Nimrod's sons, Hunor, who lends his name to half of the tribe - The Huns. The tale then proceeds to unfold exactly as Nimrod predicted. It culminates with the glorious Attila, after comforting a fallen toddler, pulling sword from the ground and securing the land of Hungary "against all powers on earth, for my people".
I sure would have liked to see the pitch for this book: "In less than a hundred pages we will mythologizes the glorious rise to power of Attila the Hun. There will be no apologies for the slaughter of thousands, but we will show that the poor motherless-lad really had no other destiny with such a father - and his people really did love him." I don’t know if my ignorance of mythological literature interfered with my appreciation of the book, but all I can say is – this is one weird critter.
The story gallops along, pausing from time to time to create a scene for the reader, but never connecting the reader to the characters. This may be par for the course with this type of literature, but I personally found it wanting. Seredy’s fantastical drawings were throughout the book. They are arresting and reminiscent of artwork that clutter the Fantasy Fan world – or finer tattoo parlors. This might work well as a graphic novel, where weirdness is all the rage.
As to the question of how this holds up. I might hand it over to a student who was interested in Mythology, with the caveat that is a mythology entirely created by the author.