I haven’t read much about Lincoln, and I thought I knew more than I actually did. In some ways, this is the very best kind of book because it makes you want to read more. Now I want to somehow find time to pick up one of those fat biographies of Lincoln and sink right into it. (I’m especially interested in Lincoln’s difficulty finding a competent general during the Civil War and the emergence of Grant.) I wasn’t intending to read the whole book in one sitting, but I became so absorbed in the story of this most unlikely President that I couldn’t put it down.
The book contains many fascinating photographs, though not so many that I think the subtitle is entirely justified. As Maira Kalman notes in her lovely picture book about Lincoln, Lincoln’s face is so interesting that you just want to sit and look at it for hours.
I didn’t have time for a fat biography, but I did have time for Kathleen Krull’s Lincoln Tells a Joke, a children’s picture book (nicely illustrated by Paul Brewer) about the ways that Lincoln used humor and jokes, and Maira Kalman’s Looking at Lincoln, which Julie Davidson writing for Kirkus Review aptly calls “a loving tribute.” It’s kind a biography and kind of a reflection. Kalman herself and her musings about Lincoln are part of the text. The art is lovely, especially the gorgeous double-page spread of the cherry trees in blossom in Washington DC.