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Brad Meltzer's 'Ordinary People Change the World': 'I Am Abraham Lincoln'

Biography of Abraham Lincoln for young readers
Biography of Abraham Lincoln for young readerscourtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers

I Am Abraham Lincoln by Brad Meltzer

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"I Am Abraham Lincoln" and "I Am Amelia Earhart" are the first two books in Brad Meltzer's new series, "Ordinary People Change the World." Of course, the people featured in the books are now famous people, but they each began in the world as ordinary people with a special character trait that made them change the world.

The stories include little known facts -- some are facts that have never been heard before. Especially touching was the story about when Abe was ten years old. He saw some boys playing with turtles. But when he got closer, he saw that they were placing hot coals on top of the turtles to see them run. He made the boys let the turtles go and wrote one of his first essays -- about how hurting animals is wrong.

And while he only attended school for less than a year, he taught himself by reading all the books he could find. He once walked six miles to get a book. That's dedication.

What resonates throughout the book is Lincoln's determination to stand up for himself and what he believed in. He lost four elections before he won one. Lincoln tells his story in first person narrative, and while what Meltzer includes is stirring and inspiring, he also includes a touch of humor (Lincoln tells everyone, "I'm going to be on the penny.")

The last page "narrated" by Lincoln sums it up: "I am Abraham Lincoln. I will never stop fighting for what's right. And I hope you'll remember that when you speak your mind -- and speak for others -- there's no more powerful way to be heard."

While some may quibble that the book has Lincoln fighting the Civil War solely to free the slaves (which is not the case), the book is one that students will enjoy reading and one that will show students an historical figure who is truly inspiring.

The illustrations by Christopher Eliopoulos will also appeal to young readers. The main character, Abraham Lincoln, remains a kid throughout the story although he also wears his signature stovepipe hat. The last two pages include a quote and some photographs.

With Common Core State Standards in the schools, this book will be appreciated by teachers looking for nonfiction reading for younger grades.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Dial Books for Young Readers for review purposes.

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