Abraham Lincoln:
The Civil War President

by Ginger Turner, Saral Tiwari
(Gossamer, 2004)

Abraham Lincoln: The Civil War President is a deftly written and cleanly drawn graphic novel that entertains and educates.

The first eight panels set the historical stage in brief captions as we are introduced to the story of Lincoln's life. Lincoln is seen leading his horse, Old Bob, down a Springfield street, accompanied by his son Tad and dog Fido. When the story begins, he is on his way to the Springfield train station to Washington for his inauguration. In a Baltimore barbershop there is talk about plans to assassinate him. Later, in Chicago, Lincoln is warned not to continue on, that there is a rebel plot to kill him on the train between Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Such an opening is sure to whet the interest of even the most avid book-hating child. Quotations from Lincoln's life are interspersed in the dialogue. For instance, when he is warned about the possible assassination, he replies, "There is no time to hide. I know I am in danger. ... I long ago made up my mind that if anyone wants to kill me, he will do it. I must do my job." And so he continues on, and he does his job: meeting generals, writing the Emancipation Proclamation, giving the Gettysburg address, having a spirited discussion with Fredrick Douglass about the need for Constitutional reform to end slavery, despairing of ever seeing an end to the war. There are some nice domestic scenes in the White House with Tad and entertaining subplots about a woman disguising herself to fight in the war, a father and son fighting on opposite sides, a runaway slave trying to reunite with his family and, of course Lincoln's dog, Fido, trekking halfway across the country to reunite with the Lincoln family.

The writer, Saral Tiwari, knows when to let the pictures tell the story. There are 102 wordless panels. Dialogue often carries the plot and captions are kept to a minimum. Artist Ginger Turner has a great feel for cinematic sequencing, particularly in Fido's scenes. She definitely has a way with animals, but she also draws intricate backgrounds and establishing shots. A panoramic view of the soon-to-be-completed Capitol building, for instance, is elegantly done. The delicate linework is occasionally overwhelmed by the color. Both art and story owe much to the great Belgian cartoonist Herge and his masterful Tintin series. Probably Tintin's heroic dog Snowy inspired the lively Fido.

This is a worthy effort that'll give kids a great introduction to the subject.

- Rambles
written by Carole McDonnell
published 17 September 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.