Abe Lincoln in Children's Literature

Staff Picks

Abe Lincoln in Children's Literature

While most children are introduced to American history in the classroom, it’s never too early to introduce them to historical figures, like President Abraham Lincoln! Lincoln is one of the most recognizable presidents in American history, and even before they enter school children may recognize “Lincoln” in top hats, tall presidents and the Lincoln Memorial. Living in Washington, D.C. makes his presence even more obvious, for many. You don’t have to wait for textbooks to introduce kids to Abraham Lincoln and his moment in history, and you don’t have to rely on “boring” books to bring the 16th president to life for them!

Abraham Lincoln by Caroline Crosson Gilpin
Whether the reader has been introduced to Lincoln in school yet or not, this National Geographic Level 2 reader is a great way to introduce emerging readers to various facets of Lincoln’s life, his presidency, and the cultural moment he was leading in--through the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. This book is also a great way to introduce young readers to nonfiction titles in an accessible way!

Who was Abraham Lincoln? by Janet Pascal
The “Who Was” series is incredibly popular for a reason. They’re accessible reads for all ages but geared especially for late elementary school and middle grader readers. This biography not only focuses on Lincoln’s life and experience in short chapters, but it also contextualizes the moment--talking about the horrors of slavery, the reality of the Civil War, and the role of the presidency. Plus, there are some great illustrations readers of all ages will enjoy!

Just in time, Abraham Lincoln by Patricia Polacco
Patricia Polacco is an acclaimed children’s book author, and her use of history mixed with modern stories and characters soars in this book that imagines two brothers transported through time while visiting a museum in West Virginia. They wind up on a battlefield during the Civil War and get a firsthand look at the war, and they meet some historical figures along the way. That includes, you guessed it, Abe Lincoln! This is a great picture book for the whole family to read, but also geared towards elementary school students and up. 

Mr. Lincoln's boys: being the mostly true adventures of Abraham Lincoln's trouble-making sons, Tad and Willie by Staton Rabin
Young readers fall in love with history when they read about people like themselves in the story, and this book about Lincoln’s sons brings readers into the pages. First children make fascinating characters, and Tad and Willie are no exception. While young readers will feel invested in this story, they’ll also learn about the fun of nonfiction and Lincoln’s own presidency. 

Lincoln's Gettysburg address: a pictorial interpretation by James Henry Daugherty
One of the things Lincoln is known for best is his Gettysburg address. Many schools have children memorize parts of it, but out of context, the message may not hit home. This “pictorial interpretation” of the famous speech explores the speech in bite-sized chunks accompanied by gorgeous, classically-inspired illustrations. The discussion possibilities behind this book are endless, and it’s a great addendum to any curricular study of Lincoln and his speech, and would even be great for art classes to study!

Dancing hands : how Teresa Carreño played the piano for President Lincoln by Margarita Engle
Be prepared for waterworks. The sweet, moving, true story of Teresa Carreno, a young pianist, comes to life on the pages of this book. Honored with the Pura Belpre illustrator award, this book is great for readers of all ages and adults will love it too! Her story of immigration, music, and her playing for Lincoln is an excellent read, and a great addition to classic biographical books on Lincoln that don’t show his life as president outside of fighting the Civil War.

Monument maker : Daniel Chester French and the Lincoln Memorial by Linda Booth Sweeney
The Lincoln Memorial is one of the most well-known monuments in the world, and children in Washington D.C. are introduced to it from a very young age. This picture book that talks about both who Lincoln was and how he has been remembered is a great way to introduce young readers to art, architecture, and memorials. While we can all learn about who Lincoln was while he was alive, it is also important to think about the ways we have and continue to remember him. This simply but beautifully illustrated picture book does just that!

Long, tall Lincoln by Jennifer Dussling
This level 2 easy reader is perfect for young history lovers who want a fun biographical introduction to the 16th president. This humorous but factual account of Lincoln’s life from too tall child to towering president will inspire history lovers, awkward-feeling children, and growing boys and girls alike. Because it is in the “I Can Read” series, it also helps improve reading skills and retention in unique and concrete ways. 

How Kate Warne saved President Lincoln: a story about the nation's first woman detective by Elizabeth Van Steewyk
Readers who are already familiar with the basics of Lincoln’s life will love this true story of a young woman and the role she played in his life--all while taking part in a daring adventure. Kate Warne is a character you don’t learn about in school, but her story may make young readers even more interested in the era of Lincoln. We all know about the assassination that was successful, but before Ford’s Theatre, there was another threat against the president, and the nation’s first female detective was on the case!

Abe Lincoln at last! by Mary Pope Osborne
Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Treehouse books have been popular with kids for decades, and older readers seeking chapter book titles will enjoy this book in the series that takes the team back to the 1860s and introduces them to Abe Lincoln himself! Jack and Annie’s adventures continue with a magical twist and a trip to the White House along the way! This is a great way to introduce children to historical fiction novels and explore the role that real characters can take on in fictional stories.