Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Lincoln and His Boys

Lincoln and His Boys

Rosemary Wells
Illustrator:  P.J. Lynch 
Historical Fiction
For ages 8 to 11
Candlewick, 2008   ISBN: 978-0763637231

Willie Lincoln and his brother Tad are a very normal pair of boys who get into scrapes, and whose activities often earn them a cold look from their father’s law partner, Mr. Herndon. This gentleman thinks that Willie and Tad behave “like wild orangutans,” which Willie thinks is quite true, though he does not offer any apologies for their behavior.

It is 1859, and nine-year-old Willie is thrilled when it is decided that he can travel to Chicago with his father on the train. Willie watches as his father talks to important looking men, and at dinner he asks his father if the men want his father to run in another election. Willie’s father lost in his last attempt when he ran against Mr. Douglas, but this time he is not just going after a senate seat. This time he is aiming for the presidency.

When we next see the Lincoln brothers it is 1861, and Willie and Tad’s father has won the presidential election. President Lincoln and his family travel to Washington D.C. on a train, and the journey takes them twelve days. As they travel, the boy’s father grows a beard, and he works on his inauguration speech. Men of all kinds come to see and to talk to the new president. Willie hears his father talk about “war clouds” and he comes to understand that his father is going to have a very difficult job when they get to Washington. It will also be a very dangerous job because there are people who would like to harm Willie and Tad’s father.

Soon enough, the war does begins and as they watch their beloved father struggle with matters of state, Tad and Willie try to understand what is going on around them. Their mother seems happy enough, hosting events and wearing pretty dresses, but their father is worried about the future of his country.

To write this incredible book, Rosemary Wells used material that was written by people who actually knew Tad and Willie Lincoln, and who saw how close Abraham Lincoln was to his two rambunctious sons. The voices of the two boys come through clearly, and we get a very vivid picture of what they were like, what they thought of their father, and what it was like to live in their world.