Russell Freedman is a distinguished nonfiction book author who prefers to be called a "factual" author. After graduating from UC Berkeley he worked as a newspaper reporter, researching and writing important factual articles. He found that he enjoyed this work but he wanted to branch out into writing books, breathing life into important historical people. He tries to stamp out the myth that nonfiction books are less interesting than fiction. He is quite successful at this.
Freedman's book Lincoln: A Photobiography is an excellent example of the author's dedication to making history come alive. His biography of the sixteenth president of the United States is interesting and easy to read. It is the well-deserved winner of the impressive Newbery Award (1988). It also earned the Jefferson Cup Award (for most distinguished books for YA in the area of history and biography) and the Golden Kite Honor Book Award in 1987 (awarded by fellow writers and illustrators.)
This book starts at the beginning of Lincoln's life explaining his humble beginnings as a farm boy who worked hard physically, but studied harder, building his intellectual prowess. It moves on to his middle age years and gives insight into the man who managed to rise to the top of the political ladder with uncompromising mix of honesty, integrity and compassion. (As a reader I was curious to know more about the religious life of the President, which the book does not discuss.) The reader gets a clear sense of the profound stress that the Civil War put on the President. The author does a wonderful job of weaving together the strain felt not only by the war burden, but personal tragedy and deep grief felt when two of his sons die. Lincoln's introspective, reflective personality is clearly displayed as well as his very soft side as shown by his weaknesses or unwillingness to discipline his children.
This book also disquiets unfounded myths, such as his so called head-over heels relationship with Mary Owens. Freedman peppers the text with quotes from Abraham Lincoln and anecdotes from people who knew him, adding depth and interest to the passages. The book is rich with pictures and original documents, complementing the text of the book. The captions under the pictures are not simply repeated phrases of the text but add more interesting tidbits.
This biography clearly outlines the Civil War as well as giving insight into the president. As one reads and learns about the man that Abraham Lincoln was they also are learning about how life was during this critical time period in America and the issues that were involved with the Civil War effort. It was a turbulent time period and Lincoln was in danger. It was interesting to learn that his body guard had slipped away from his post to watch the play at the time of his assassination.
The book covers the life of a truly great man who carried a great burden well, with wit and grace. The author uses his great writing ability to put the man of Lincoln on display with all of his positive attributes as well as his flaws, keeping him a hero to us all.
Heres what critics have to say:
...highly readable and meticulously organized.
....it stands heads and shoulders above the competition, just like Lincoln himself.
...Freedman's extensive research is apparent.
...Well organized and well written. This is an outstanding example of what juvenile biography can be.
Freedman, Russell. 1998. LINCOLN: A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY. New York: Scholastic, Inc.
Quotes taken from Barnes and Noble Web site:
Read more about Russel Freedman at these Web sites: