My Brother Abe

Written by Harry Mazer
Review by B. J. Sedlock

Despite the title, this novel for ages 8-12 concentrates on Lincoln’s sister Sally. Little is known of her historically, leaving the author free to invent a lively personality. The Lincolns are forced to leave Kentucky after a land title dispute. They walk to a new home in Indiana, where Sally has trouble fitting into the role expected of a girl on the frontier. She is suddenly thrust into adulthood after her mother dies of the “trembles.” Tom Lincoln leaves Abe and Sally behind while he travels back to Kentucky to marry a widow and bring her to Indiana. But how can this stranger replace Sally and Abe’s beloved mother?

Facts about Abe Lincoln’s childhood are woven into the story subtly, so that readers won’t realize they are learning history. Sally is a likable girl, feisty and getting into trouble when she speaks her mind in an era when children are expected to be silent unless spoken to. Tom Lincoln is severe with Abe, giving insights into the future President’s character. An afterword explains more about the Lincoln family’s background, where the reader will also discover Sally’s fate. The book would be an excellent supplement to a Lincoln curriculum.