Mr. Lincoln's Boys, written by Staton Rabin with illustrations by Bagram Ibatouline, is a captivating and beautiful book about Lincoln's close relationship with his two younger sons, Tad and Willie. President Lincoln's compassion and sensitivity are well documented. Stories about his caring for those in need human and animal are legion. One of my favorites - is a time consuming but successful search for the nest of two robins who had fallen from a tree. His partner Herndon has written that Lincoln didn't want those young birds to face the world without a mother as he had.
Staton Rabin who comes from a family of children's book writers tells the story of life in the White House during the Civil War. Danger lurked everywhere; the booming sounds of war were almost unrelieved. Yet a generous father gave of himself totally and thereby found his relief from tension in joyous play with his children.
Tad and Willie's various pranks are recounted with gusto, but it is Jack the soldier doll dressed as a fiery red and blue Zouave firefighter-soldier who captivates us and the boys. Jack is more than seriously mischievous. His story reveals a White House replete with soldiers facing the horrors of war s He spies for the enemy. He is a deserter. He is tried and is condemned to death by firing squad.
Then the boys ask their father, the president, the Commander in chief for a pardon for Jack, the youthful doll-soldier. Lincoln takes their case seriously balancing the need for army discipline and the paramount need especially in wartime for human compassion. He grants a pardon with a note- the doll jack is pardoned by order of the President.
Writing history books for youth is a great challenge and responsibility - we want them to love history and storytelling as we do. Staton Rabin and her illustrator have given us a book that is a moving experience that reveals the powers of the president, the tragedy of the Civil War, life for children in the White House, and the living breathing Constitution wherein the president's power to pardon is delineated.
I can imagine reading this book with 10-12 year olds and perhaps sharing other stories about Lincoln's compassion and tenderness and why he is revered on his 200th birthday.