I've always loved history. I love it because history, presented well, truly is the STORIES of people's lives. Denenberg skillfully weaves stories of Lincoln's life with quotes and photographs. I loved learning about Mary Todd Lincoln- did you know she came from a wealthy family who vehemently opposed their daughter marrying beneath her social station, to the point that Mary and Abe even broke off their courtship for an extended period of time? Did you know she hated Washington D.C., and when they first moved there, she stayed only a few months before returning home with her children? Did you know that she spent so much to remodel the White House, that she was forever scorned by the government officials and the press?
It's the stories from the Civil War, however, that are the centerpiece of this very powerful book. Denenberg tells those stories with amazing detail-- stories of the events leading up to the war, stories about the lives of bumbling and contentious generals, stories of battles where fathers watched their children die, stories of the horrendous decisions Abraham Lincoln faced every day and the toll they took on his mental health. The stories are so detailed and so well-told that I could see using this as a textbook or read aloud for a high school history class. Denenberg uses many, many quotes from Abraham Lincoln, and also pieces of actual correspondence, to further enhance the stories.
I have a few questions about using this book. The pages in the book, as I said earlier, are designed to look like a newspaper from the 1860's. Everything-- the fonts, the pictures, the advertisements, even the SIZE of the pages carry through on that theme. And it's the size that concerns me a little. This book is HUGE, and I mean HUGE, easily double the size of a regular book. Because of the size, it's not a book that will be easy to read aloud, It's not a book that will fit in kids' desks at school. It's not a book you could carry in your purse or even your backpack. It's not even a book that's fun to read in bed, you really need a table to prop it on.
But when you figure out how to hold it, the information is so, so wonderful…