Review: Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman

looking at lincoln

Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman

Take a fresh and radiant look at our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln in this new picture book.  A young girl is motivated to find out more about President Lincoln after spotting someone in the park who reminded her of him.  She discovers many interesting facts, some of them well known like him being born in a small log cabin and other more obscure like his love of vanilla cake.  This is a personal look at a president, allowing us to see what his road to greatness was and how it ended in tragedy. 

Kalman takes a very modern look at history here.  A large part of its modern feel is the art in the book which is bright and blazing.  She uses color with abandon, with pinks, yellows, reds and greens adding color to simple illustrations.  Her paintings range from individual objects of importance to entire scenes from history.  The diversity of the images also adds a sense of playfulness to the work that is welcome.

Her writing carries through that same light touch, making the facts all the more interesting.  As she tells the story of Lincoln’s life, she is also telling the sad story of slavery and Civil War.  Somehow her illustrations and the tone she employs here keeps the book moving and never lets it bog down into too many words. 

A colorful, fascinating look at the life of our 16th President.  This book is appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.

Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce

chitty chitty bang bang flies again

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce, illustrated by Joe Berger

Take a lively ride in the first follow-up to the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang book by Ian Fleming.  The Tooting family have hit hard times, Mr. Tooting has lost his job.  But they don’t stay down hearted for long, deciding that they should take a trip around the world.  Mrs. Tooting brings home a very old and worn camping van that Mr. Tooting and Jem slowly rebuild together after taking it entirely apart.  When they go looking for parts at a local junkyard, they discover an amazing racing engine and mount it on the camping van.  The engine, of course, belonged to the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and now Chitty wants to get the rest of herself back together.  So the family and Chitty are off on an adventure around the world to find all of her parts.  This adventure will take them to the top of the Eiffel Tower and the depths of the ocean.

Boyce has moved the story into the modern age with cell phones and a contemporary family.  The story pay homage to the original in many ways, foremost being the search for the parts of the original Chitty.  Also, the story arc is very similar with wonderful villains who pop into the story with menacing jelly baby phones and the moment when the children are separated from their parents and have to fend for themselves.  The book also has a real spirit of the first, incorporating humor throughout.

Berger’s illustrations enliven the book, showing a multi-ethnic family and making the book more approachable for young readers.   They have a wonderful humor about them too, carrying the jolliness of the story into images.

The old-fashioned yet modern mix of this book is extremely appealing.  The book reads quickly and is completely entertaining.  Ideal for fans of the first book and sure to win new fans as well.  Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from library copy.