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Picture Book Thursday: Presidents ~ Part One

Abrahamcomes home Abraham Lincoln Comes Home
Written by Robert Burleigh
Illustrated by Wendell Minor
Ages 6-12 years

Written by Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by John Hendrix
Ages 4-8 years

Farmer george Farmer George Plants a Nation
Written by Peggy Thomas
Illustrated by Layne Johnson
Ages 8-12 years

With Presidents' Day on its way, I thought I'd give you a chance to check out these books for your classroom.  They cover the range from somber to playful, and they're all worth sharing with students.

Abraham Lincoln Comes Home
How powerful!  Upon opening the book you'll find endpapers proclaiming, "WE MOURN OUR CHIEF HAS FALLEN," on the backdrop of the flag.  The image is an original, "one of many printed as small paper flags that served as popular symbols of mourning during Lincoln's funeral observances."

The tale itself is brief and poignant.  Luke gets up before sunrise to accompany his father to the train bearing Lincoln's body to Illinois.  The text is rich with imagery as Luke watches his father cry before proceeding home.  Robert Burleigh has done a fantastic job including historical research like the smell of lilacs along the route.  A fact page mentions an observer as having said, "I never smell lilacs without thinking of that day."  The simplicity of this tale makes it all the more effective.

Abe11 Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale
On a lighter note, Deborah Hopkinson offers up a romp of a tale featuring Lincoln and his boyhood friend Austin.  With interactions taking place between a narrator and the illustrator, students are bound to enjoy the adventure Lincoln and Austin have crossing a raging river.  Adults are sure to enjoy the fresh and whimsical illustrations.  (This is also a good title to raise this question with students:  Why do you think the illustrator chose to draw in a horizontal format, as opposed to a vertical format?)   

Farmer George Plants a Nation
While this title features Washington's role in the development of America, it also does a nice job of juxtaposing his work as farmer and inventor.  With excerpts taken from his writing paired with Layne Johnson's beautiful artwork, this book is sure to please children and adults alike.  Teachers will appreciate the wealth of info supplementing the book in the form of a timeline, bibliography, George at Mount Vernon, George's Thoughts on Slavery, and Learn More About Farmer George at Mount Vernon.
On Peggy Thomas's Web site she shares a link to her beautiful video preview of the book on YouTube. Illustrator Lane Johnson also shares lots of images from the book on her Web site (as well as the video preview link.)

Activity
Use Farmer George Plants a Nation to kick off a planting experiment.  Have students plant some seeds in plain soil and soil amended with compost.  Have them record their observations as the plants grow. Do the plants grow better in the soil with compost?

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