In 1820, Sam Harding and Abe Lincoln forged a strong friendship, based on their love of learning and of the outdoors. This timeless story about two boys, the experiences they shared growing up in early America, and how one of the boys eventually became the sixteenth President of the United States
Sam Harding, age 10, and his friend Abe Lincoln, age 11, grew up together in Little Pigeon Creek, Indiana. The year is 1820 and the two boys meet in their one-room schoolhouse known as a “blab.” They became the best of friends. Together they did normal things like fish in the creek, play with the Indian children, explore their surroundings, and attend church. Abe was a storyteller and enjoyed telling tales to groups of friends. He also had a way with words and could explain almost anything so others could understand.
On a trip to Kentucky, the boys see a “slave market” where slaves were sold to the highest bidder and often caused broken families. Seeing this made both boys very upset. This is when Abe first decided that slavery was wrong. Three years later, in 1823, Sam’s family moved to Ohio. It was not until 35 years later that Sam heard of his good friend Abe, who was participating in the Lincoln-Douglas debates (1858). A short time later, Abe became the sixteenth President of the United States, led the northern states in the Civil War, and abolished slavery with his Emancipation Proclamation.
My Friend Abe is part fiction and part history. Sam Harding is fictional. Abe Lincoln’s is based on reality. Through Sam’s eyes, we get to watch Abe grow from age 11 to 14. The well-written story feels natural. Sam Harding could just as easily been a real person. As the narrator, Sam smoothly tells his story making this a good book for children to read alone or with a parent. Kids will learn a little about Lincoln’s childhood, finding that it was not much different theirs. He played, went to school, did homework, and other things kids still do today. The games may be different, the schools bigger, the chores more modern, yet kids will find they can identify with Lincoln.
The illustrations are colorful depictions of the life the two boys could have shared. Abe is a drawn as the tall lanky fellow he most likely was at fourteen. I liked this book for its depictions of life in 19th century America. The childhood influences, which may have helped shape Abraham Lincoln’s view of slavery, are memorable. I think kids ages five to eight will enjoy this story of Abe Lincoln’s childhood. It will not replace a textbook, but it will enhance understanding.
Author: Robert L. Bloch Illustrator: John W. Ewing Publisher: Big Tent Books Publication Date: 2011 Number of Pages: 32 ISBN: 978-1-6013-1074-3