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Abraham Lincoln's World Review by Jill Hardy

Genevieve Foster
Beautiful Feet Books
1306 Mill St.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

Abraham Lincoln's World, by Genevieve Foster, tells the story of early American and world history during the life span of the sixteenth president of the United States of America. This book follows the same format used for the other books in Foster's "World of" series (Augustus Caesar's World, The World of Columbus and Sons, et al), and it does a magnificent job of putting historical events into perspective.

Readers will learn to identify lesser-known people and events with the stages of Abraham Lincoln's life and possibly connect information that was previously disjointed. Knowing that Lincoln was a child when Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo helps to connect one incident with another piece of history, lending credence to the study of history as an ongoing narrative rather than a memorization of names and dates. Learning interesting tidbits about familiar people opens our eyes to the ways that issues permeated life back then, just as they do now. (Did you know that "Buffalo" Bill's father was stabbed because he was an abolitionist?)

This is what I believe is both the strength and the potential weakness of Foster's books: the synthesis of stories. It is a strength because to really know history is to understand how events and lives were affected by other events and lives, both previous and contemporary. Foster tells the stories beautifully, keeping them interesting enough to hold your attention, and she has a knack for picking out details from each slice of history that work together.

The potential weakness is the sheer amount of information. It is a lot to take in and remember. Foster's style (introducing a person or event, then moving on to something else, then coming back to the former and giving more detail) might seem confusing to someone used to a textbook approach. Abraham Lincoln's World reads more like a novel, with a multitude of characters and several plotlines going on at once. But as in a really well-written novel, the ending reveals how it all fits together.

The illustrations are a great help with keeping track of who's who. Double-page spreads give dates and memory jogs as to who did what and when.

At 353 pages, the book is a lot to read, but I believe it gives a comprehensive view of Civil War-era America and the world. Beautiful Feet recommends this book for 7th grade and up, and I agree. I'd use it with a younger child only if they had a big appetite for history, a keen memory, and lengthy attention span. I'd also consider it adequate for early high school students. The book includes scientific discoveries, literary milestones, and artistic accomplishments, as well as battles and monumental world events, making it a great way to broaden a history program.

The fact that Foster's books were written quite a while ago (Abraham Lincoln's World was originally published in the 1940s) might give some pause, but I believe them to be on par with any modern history book. Non-Western civilizations are explored; the differences among abolitionists are revealed, and (thanks to a re-editing in 2001) obsolete spellings have been brought up to date, particularly Chinese place names.

I would recommend Genevieve Foster's history books to those who really want to dig deeply into history with their junior high/early high school students and could appreciate her horizontal approach to history.

Product review by Jill Hardy, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2007