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The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary    by Candace Fleming order for
by Candace Fleming
Order:  USA  Can
Schwartz & Wade, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

As we approach the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth (in February 2009), Candace Fleming's The Lincolns takes 'A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary', presenting their lives and times via (black and white) photographs, engravings, cartoons, letters, diaries, recipes, newspaper clippings, speeches, and other text.

After a timeline of The Lincoln Years, the volume is divided into chapters introducing a Backwoods Boy and Bluegrass Girl; telling of both their Happiest Stages of Life and Tumultuous Times; covering the Washington years under And the War Came, This Awful Burden, and With Charity for All; and finishing with Blind from Weeping after the assassination.

I enjoyed reading about Abraham's favorite childhood books (like Robinson Crusoe), and his emergence from simple roots to study law and enter politics. The scrapbook approach emphasizes the contrast with Mary Todd's privileged, though often unhappy childhood. It was fascinating to read about Abraham's brilliant defense in a murder case, to peruse Mary's recipe for Fricasseed Chickens, and to learn of her strong influence in his political career.

The civil war years are tough to read about, highlights including Mary's help for former slaves in Washington and Lincoln's Emancipation and Thanksgiving Proclamations. And it's impossible not to feel for Mary after her husband's death and her son's orchestration of her insanity trial.

In her Introduction, Candace Fleming tells us the Lincolns' story 'not only chronicles some of the most important events in American history but also illuminates the human condition of love and loss, failure and accomplishment, convention and nonconformity, determination and destiny.' Her scrapbook format conveys this very well.

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