Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall Thin Tale

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall Thin Tale

Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator:  John Hendrix 
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 8
Random House, 2008   ISBN: 037583768X

Welcome to Knob Creek in Kentucky. It is 1816 and we are going to join two boys who live along the creek helping their parents to do the chores and to tend the fields. The boys are called Abraham Lincoln (yes, that Abraham Lincoln) and Benjamin Austin Gollaher. Abe and Austin are the best of friends, and Austin is very proud of his young companion.

One day the two boys go down to the creek to find some partridges. Abe’s mother Nancy warns them not to get to close to the creek because the water is running high. Of course, the boys don’t heed her words. Abe is in such a hurry to get to the other side of the creek to find the birds that he does not pay attention to how dangerous the water is looking. Austin is more cautious, but he allows himself to be persuaded by his eager friend.

And so the boys set off to cross the creek using an old log as a bridge. Austin makes it across without any difficulties, but thin Abe is not so lucky. He falls in, and since he cannot swim at all he is, without a doubt, in deep trouble.

This tale is based on the true story of an episode that really took place in Abraham Lincoln’s early life. Though we don’t know the details of what exactly happened, we do know that young Austin did save his friend when Abe fell in a creek. Deborah Hopkins has found a unique way to tell her story, ‘speaking’ to her audience as if she were talking to them in person, and making an entertaining and often funny job of it. At one point she even ‘rewinds’ the story to tell it in a different way. Young readers are sure to find this novel way of doing things highly entertaining.

To compliment this format the illustrator also becomes a part of the story in a very singular and companionable way. He literally draws his hand holding a paintbrush onto the pages, and we always know that he is there, ready to do what needs to be done to keep the story going.

Children will greatly enjoy this fresh way of telling a story. The format encourages them to participate, and to think about what might have happened next.

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