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Nonfiction Monday: Women Who Broke the Rules: Mary Todd Lincoln


Women Who Broke the Rules: Mary Todd Lincoln
By Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley


ISBN: 9780802738240
Grades 2-5
Out December 1, 2015


Find it at:
Schuler Books | Your Library

Reanimating the dead is often more difficult than creating them out of thin air. Good biography brings life and makes the subject feel relevant, bad bio makes you wonder why you’re reading about someone who died 100 years ago. In title, tone, and spirit the Women Who broke the Rules series is on a mission to engage readers. It succeeds.



Mary Todd Lincoln had a great brain. But that wasn’t always a comfort. America in the 1800s, with its narrow ideas about women, just didn’t know what to do with her.

From a young age, Mary Todd was confident in her abilities and spoke her mind. Her sister called her “The most ambitious woman I ever knew.” This drive eventually led to the White House. Along the way her strong will ruffled feathers and expanded what people had previously come to see as the role of the First Lady.

The conversational style is straightforward and appealing. The series is called Women Who Broke the Rules, and Krull makes a point of letting the reader know how Mary Todd didn’t conform to expectations – beginning in childhood and lasting until her death in 1882. Clocking in at 46 pages, the amount of territory covered is impressive. Back matter includes a bibliography of sources and list of websites for further reading.


Bright and often humorous full-color illustrations appear on most pages to accompany the text. While a bit of a mixed bag in terms of quality, they dutifully add a visual layer to the storytelling.

Plenty of vim. Vigor to spare. This is a book (and series) that you will be happy you have around.

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 scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. There are definitely some things I liked about this book, but it is chock-full of one of my pet peeves: referring to women by their first names (Mary Todd Lincoln is consistently “Mary”) and men by their last names (Abraham Lincoln is consistently “Lincoln”).

    I’d also love to know what people thought of its treatment of her mental health situation–I don’t know enough about that to judge.