Looking at Lincoln

“Looking at Lincoln”
Written and illustrated by Maira Kalman
Nancy Paulson Books. An imprint of Penguin, 2012

“As she did in The Principles of Uncertainty, Kalman transforms digital material—in this case, her New York Times illustrated column “In Love with A. Lincoln”—into analogue format. Kalman’s fond and bittersweet account of our lanky 16th president evokes both a schoolgirl crush (“I got lost in photos of his unusual face…. I could look at him forever”) and a Yankee’s steely, sorrowful perspective on the price of freedom (still lifes include a bullet-torn Civil War uniform and John Wilkes Booth’s pistol). Abstract gouaches—ranging from tangy colors to dolorous grays—put a contemporary spin on the iconic log cabin, Springfield house, stovepipe hat, and “his favorite vanilla cake” with ribbons of red icing. Portraits include a pensive Lincoln, seated alone or with family (“He was thinking about… doing good for mankind. And maybe he was also thinking about getting a birthday present for his little son”); Sojourner Truth; and Lincoln’s pale-eyed stepmother, wearing a severe bonnet and black dress à la Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein. Rather than pen a textbook profile, Kalman portrays heartfelt admiration through poignant imagery.”
– Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

“A profusion of bright gouache illustrations that are as colorful as springtime in Arles encourages historical examination.”
– The Horn Book

“Appealing and wondrous. Maira Kalman’s artwork is the main attraction here. Each page offers visual treats in a Matisse-like palette.”
– Kirkus Reviews

“Remarkable. . . . Questions that echo a child’s curiosity. . . . This impressionistic biography is one that adults will want to share with children, and that children will pore over.”
– Library Media Connection

“Embellished with circular, childlike wonderings, and carrying a powerful emotional impact.”
– Booklist