LINCOLN: A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY
BY RUSSELL FREEDMAN
Freedman, R. (1987). Lincoln: A photobiography. New York, N.Y: Clarion Books.
Genre: Informational, Bibliographical
Interest Level: Grades 5-6
Reading Level: Grade 6 Equivalent
I predicted the information in this book to be delivered in a different fashion. Instead of listing and explaining facts about Lincoln, like I thought the author was going to do here, information is delivered through the tell of a story of the late president. This made for an exciting, engaging read.
Thoughts About Craft
I admire author Russell Freedman’s ability to tell the story of such an influential historical figure who lead a challenging personal life, and who struggled in his career as President. In telling Lincoln’s inspiring story, Freedman covers important topics in history allowing readers to not only learn about a prominent figure in history, but about the events that occurred during his time in office. Gory events such as those discussed in this book are, I imagine are difficult to introduce to young readers, however Freedman does so successfully in this book as he speaks of the events candidly thus providing ultimate accuracy while at the same time avoiding unnecessary grisly details that may cause the reader distress.
Thoughts About Particular Issues Raised in the Book
Although the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in 1865, making slavery completely illegal in the U.S., it still is in existence, only it is less obvious. Human trafficking is a global problem and is keeping slavery alive worldwide. Victims of human trafficking abhorrent work in deplorable environments and are subjected to beatings and starvation. Many work as sex slaves.
Also, there are thousands of immigrants working as forced laborers in the US, and many of them even entered the country legally believing that they have found a lucrative job.
Prompts you could use when reading the books with children
- How did people seem to feel about Lincoln? What is the evidence?
- What kind of man do you think Lincoln was based on details in this paragraph? What makes you think this?
- Who was the assassin?
- What appears to have been Booth’s motivation?
- What words and details does the author use here to convey the somber tone of this night?
- What did the secretary of war mean when he said, “Now he belongs to the ages?”
Plot: Born in 1809, in a log cabin near Hogenville, Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln was a poor farm boy who spent most his youth in the backwoods, chopping wood and working on the family farm. When he wasn’t working he was reading books or newspapers to educate himself. He became an expert in many topics by reading about them. Unlike any former U.S. president, Lincoln was a sloppy dresser who stood 6’ 4” and the weighed approximately 180 lbs. He was known for his wit and rollicking humor, but was also very melancholy and moody as he was tormented by long and frequent bouts of depression. From a very young age, Lincoln faced many obstacles. At age 9, soon after losing his aunt and uncle to a disease referred to as “milk sickness”, he lost his mother to the same disease. At the age of 18, he lost his sister Sarah, who died giving birth to her first child. In the need to escape and start a new life, he left his hometown and headed spent time in various nearby cities where he met lawyers, politicians, and businessmen who offered him assistance and a place to stay. During his time in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln met his future wife, Mary, whose wealthy family disapproved of him and for his poor lifestyle and lack of education. This caused great strain on their relationship, as a result Lincoln broke off the engagement which caused him to experience the greatest emotional crisis of his life, thus far. After 15 months, the couples’ friends arranged a secret meeting where the two would meet again, and agree to resume their relationship. They married on November 4, 1842, and would remain married until the day of his assassination. While he made an outstanding lawyer, he felt less competent in his career as a politician and president. He faced extreme scrutiny as a politician, but even more so as a president, as he made tremendous efforts to abolish slavery. Although it was a success, the abolishment of slavery caused a war that Lincoln was never in agreement with. He was a peaceful man living amongst hateful citizens and politicians who wanted to see his empire collapse and watch him fail. His success in abolishing slavery would make him one of the most prominent, well-liked, respected presidents in U.S. history.
Style: This biography is written in chronological order beginning with Lincoln’s childhood on frontier homesteads in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois and concludes with his assassination in Washington, D.C.
Setting: Lincoln’s story takes place in the 1800’s, and surrounds the civil war period. The story takes place in the various cities that he lived and visited while he was growing up.
Theme: Themes found in this biography include the civil war, slavery, reconstruction, presidency, historical figures,leadership and responsibility.
Part Four: Lesson Sketch
Grade Level: 5
Key Ideas and Details:
Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
Objective: Given different events from Abraham Lincoln’s life as they are portrayed in Russel Freedman’s, Lincoln: A Photobiography, the students will work in small groups to write a skit for the event that is assigned to them, in which they will act out in front of their classmates in an 8-10 minute play.
Activity: For this activity, the teacher will generate small groups of 4-5 students. Each group will be assigned a scene from the book. Groups will collaborated to create skits for their assigned scenes. Once the skits have been written, students will decide who will take on what roles in the scene, as they will be required to perform the scene in front of their classmates, in a 8-10 minute performance.
- Describe your assigned scene as you visualize it in your mind.
- What will you do to best portray this scene?
- What is the focal point of your scene? What are you trying to portray?
A SUMMER TO DIE
Part One: Bibliographic Information
Lowry, L., & Oliver, J. (1979). A summer to die. Toronto: Bantam Books.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Reading Level: Grade level Equivalent: 5
Interest Level: Grades 6-8
Part Two: Response to the book
I predicted “A Summer to Die” to be sadder than it was. Certainly it was a sad read, but the climax of the story happened so suddenly and far too quickly. From one sentence to the next, Molly was dead, and the story continued on to the next topic with no description of her death or other character’s feelings towards it.
Also after Molly was introduced as the pretty, popular sister, I predicted that she would be the one to die in the story.
Thoughts about craft
Subjects such as birth and death can be difficult to read about depending on how they are presented to the reader. I admire Lowry’s ability to present such topics in a manner that is not graphic or disgusting. According to an article on cliffs notes.com, “Lowry based the relationship between Meg and Molly on her own memories of her relationship with her older sister, Helen, as they were growing up, and on the feelings and emotions that she felt when Helen died of cancer.” Basing a book on one’s own experiences, especially when they involve such sorrow and despondent feelings, I imagine is a challenging task. I appreciate Lowry’s courage and transparency as she allows strangers to enter her personal space.
Personal connections to other books or your life
Meg and Molly’s story is a reminder of why my mother encouraged my siblings and I to get along as kids. Growing up, my mother always reminded my siblings and I that we “…are not guaranteed tomorrow…” and should therefore treat each other with love and respect every day. If there was ever a fight between any of my siblings and myself, we were not allowed to go to sleep or leave for the day without first making a truce. It was something we did as a family and continue to do as adults, only now we understand what Mom was talking about in the past. Although we do not fight anymore, we still get annoyed by each other from time to time and because life experiences have taught us to not take it for granted, we now live by this rule naturally.
Thoughts about particular issues raised in the book
Overcoming a loved one’s death is probably the most difficult thing an individual is faced with. Death, dying, grieving, and comforting others as they mourn are issues people face throughout their lifetime. This book sheds light on such issues by emphasizing life’s significance and focusing on the importance of appreciation. Death is a sensitive subject, and one that teenagers may find difficult to discuss. This book is a great place to start as it offers a different, non graphic approach to a sensitive subject.
Prompts you could use when reading the book to children
When reading this book, I would ask students to think about a time when they overcame a tragic experience, and how that experience contributed to their character development.
The story takes place in the Chalmers family’s new home on a farm in New England.
A Summer to Die tells the story of a thirteen year old girl by the name of Meg Chalmers who is forced to share a room with her fifteen year old sister Molly, after her family moves to a new home on a farm in New England. Envious of Molly’s natural beauty and popularity, Meg always questioned her own worth and would often become upset over nothing. Molly became ill thee summer that they spent in the new home. Meg did not realize the severity of Molly’s sickness until one night that Molly got a bloody one of her usual bloody noses and never returned from the hospital. While Mr. and Mrs. Chalmers are preoccupied with Molly’s sickness, Meg makes friends of her neighbors and develops strong relationships with them. Will, an elderly man supports her love for photography, and Ben and Maria, a married couple love her like she was their own. In her friends, she finds comfort and is able to cope with the loss of her sister as she witnesses the birth of Ben and Maria’s new and first addition.
Themes presented in this book surround birth, life, and death.
Lowry tells the story in the first person from the perspective of a thirteen year old girl who shares her experiences as she witnesses the death of her older sister, and the birth of her friends’ baby.
Part Four: Lesson Sketch
RL.6.2: Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
Using details from the book to support his / her findings, the student will write a formal, objective summary that describes a theme in the book.
In this activity, students will be instructed to write a summary, free of any personal opinions or judgments of a theme in the book. They will be required to use details from the book to support their findings. Students will write their summaries in their journals and submit them to the teacher when they finish the activity.
What themes are presented in the book?
Can you make personal connections with any of the subjects presented here?
Based on the various themes found in this book, create your a new title for the book.