Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Vinnie and Abraham

Vinnie and Abraham

Dawn Fitzgerald
Illustrator:   Catherine Stock 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Charlesbridge, 2007   ISBN: 978-1570916588

Vinnie Ream, a pretty girl from Wisconsin territory, had a very special gift. She was a talented sculptress. When she lived in the Wisconsin territory she would make clay figurines and busts for her friends, but then her family moved to Washington D.C. and times were hard. There was very little money to spare and Vinnie had to get a job. Because so many men were away fighting in the Civil War Vinnie was able to get a job at the post office – for less pay than a man would get. Whenever she could she would sketch and study the statues in the Washington graveyards, wishing all the while that she could find a way to continue her sculpting.

Being a brave and determined little person, fourteen year old Vinnie asked a famous Washington sculptor, Clark Mills, if he would give her a job. Then she showed him what she could do, and recognizing her talent Mills gave her the job of apprentice sculptor. It was not long before Vinnie was being given commissions to create statues of congressmen. There was one person she particularly wanted to sculpt, President Abraham Lincoln, whom she greatly admired.

Several Congressmen agreed to try to get the president to sit for Vinnie and after much persuasion the president finally acquiesced. For five months Vinnie worked on the bust and when it was completed she was very pleased with the result of her labors. The war ended soon after the bust was completed and then, on April 14th, 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated.

When Congress announced that they wanted to have a sculptor create a statue of Abraham Lincoln, Vinnie asked that she might be given the commission. After much discussion and consideration, Congress agreed. She was “the youngest artist and first woman to receive a commission from the U.S. Government. The result of Vinnie’s five years of labor can now be seen in the Capitol rotunda in Washington, D.C.

Young readers will learn about a very different world as they read this book, a world where women were paid less money for doing the same job as a man, and one where a talented sculptress had to work very hard to prove to everyone that she was a talented and able artist, even though she was female. Despite all the obstacles thrown her way, Vinnie Ream got what she wanted.

This book is a fascinating read and its atmospheric artwork perfectly compliments the text. Not only do we learn about Vinnie and her accomplishments, but we also find out a little bit about Abraham Lincoln, “the kind and gentle” man whom she befriended.

A “Note from the Author” in the back of the book provides readers with further information about Vinnie and her world; it includes a photograph of Vinnie’s famous statue of Abraham Lincoln.

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