Nonfiction Monday: He Has Shot the President! by Don Brown
He Has Shot the President! April 14, 1865: The Day John Wilkes Booth Killed President Lincoln
By Don Brown
Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan)
In stores April 1, 2014
I know you’ve noticed, but we are in the midst of a Lincoln revival. In the past ten years (which included the 150th anniversary of his birth) our 16th president has received a remarkable level of coverage in both children’s and adult literature. Why, then, should you feel moved to add another Honest Abe book to your collection? Because it’s written by Don Brown, a guy who always manages to take history, remove the H and I, and turn in a piece of narrative nonfiction that is gripping first and foremost.
It was a rare, cheerful day for President Abraham Lincoln
As you can probably guess – things go downhill from there. On April 14, 1865 actor (and supporter of Southern independence) John Wilkes Booth readied a group of like-minded people to take down not just Lincoln, but to pull off a triple assassination plot including Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward. Booth was the only one who succeeded, leading to a manhunt and eventual capture in Virginia.
This is a classic case of “we all know the story, but we don’t know the story”. Everyone is familiar with the part Booth plays, but very few know the entire scope of events on that fateful day. The straightforward narrative style of the text make this a quick, engaging read. Back matter is fairly limited – a bibliography citing three sources. This lack of detail may rankle some who are looking for more specifics.
The full-color illustrations, executed in Brown’s signature loose style, appear on every page and help to carry the emotional impact of the story. Brown doesn’t shy away from the truth, resulting in a couple affecting scenes of the crimes being carried out.
This is a book that will serve two audiences, and serve them well – young readers on fact-finding missions for school assignments as well as those with an interest in this incredible (and incredibly sad) event. A book that you should have on hand.
Review copy from the publisher
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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