Living Lincoln’s Words

On this 205th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, I’m grateful for our 16th President’s lasting legacy.  Lincoln shepherded this nation through some of our most trying times, a life beautifully captured in Russell Freedman’s Newbery Medal-winning book, Lincoln: A Photobiography.

I’ve always admired the clear, thoughtful, and often poignant way in which Lincoln spoke and wrote.  He is among our history’s most quotable thinkers.  To honor the rich legacy that he left us, I’ve partnered favorite Lincoln quotes with middle grade books whose characters live his words.  Let’s hope that ongoing generations of young readers find inspiration to carry on Lincoln’s ideals.

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.The vivid story of a black family whose warm ties to each other and their land give them strength to defy rural Southern racism during the Depression. . . . Entirely through its own internal development, the novel shows the rich inner rewards of black pride, love, and independence despite the certainty of outer defeat.” —Booklist (Indiebound description)

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed
is more important than any other.

  The Librarian of Basra: A True Story of Iraq by Jeanette Winter  Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library–along with the thirty thousand books within it–will be destroyed forever.  … this true story about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. (Indiebound description)

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.

 The Underneath by Kathi Appelt; ill. by David Small  A calico cat, about to have kittens, hears the lonely howl of a chained-up hound deep in the backwaters of the bayou. She dares to find him in the forest, and the hound dares to befriend this cat, this feline, this creature he is supposed to hate. They are an unlikely pair, about to become an unlikely family. Ranger urges the cat to hide underneath the porch, to raise her kittens there because Gar-Face, the man living inside the house, will surely use them as alligator bait should he find them. But they are safe in the Underneath…as long as they stay in the Underneath. …a harrowing yet keenly sweet tale about the power of love — and its opposite, hate — the fragility of happiness and the importance of making good on your promises. (Indiebound description)

The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead  By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner. But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late. (Indiebound description)

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

Anne Frank’s Story by Carol Ann Lee  Millions of people throughout the world have read Anne Frank’s unforgettable diary. But most readers don’t know much about Anne’s life before she went into hiding. This remarkable biography, written especially for young readers, chronicles Anne’s life from her earliest days. The book includes remembrances from Anne’s family and friends and features rare photos of Anne from infancy to adolescence. A powerful, moving tribute to an ordinary girl whose life has inspired millions.  (Indiebound description)

Whatever you are, be a good one.

  Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney  Alice Rumphius … longed to travel the world, live in a house by the sea, and do something to make the world more beautiful. The countless lupines that bloom along the coast of Maine are the legacy of the real Miss Rumphius, the Lupine Lady, who scattered lupine seeds everywhere she went.  (Indiebound description)

The probability that we may fail in the struggle
ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson  Kadir Nelson tells the story of Mandela, a global icon, in poignant verse and glorious illustrations. It is the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for people of all colors. Readers will be inspired by Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.

Sincere thanks to Stephanie Guerra and Megan Sloan, my teacher/writer colleagues who contributed book suggestions!

Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. Her debut novel, Something to Hold (Clarion, 2011) won the 2012 Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award for middle grade/young adult and was named a 2012 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.  Visit her at http://katherineschlicknoe.com.

3 Responses to Living Lincoln’s Words

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