“… If You Grew up with Abraham Lincoln” by Ann McGovern

 I don’t review every children’s book I read, but this is a far-sighted work, written sometimes in the second person, sometimes in the third:


Paper cost too much to use for practice. If you wanted to practice writing, you would do the same thing Abe Lincoln did. He wrote with a stick in the dirt. And he wrote on a wooden shovel with a burnt stick. When the shovel was covered with letters, Abe scraped them off and began writing again.


That’s under the heading "How would you practice writing and arithmetic?" In its simple, 1966 way, … If You Grew up with Abraham Lincoln is elegantly written. Ann McGovern is an amateurish poet, but like many a weak poet, has eveloped a commanding prose. (Another example is Abraham Lincoln.)


Ann tells a lot, in an unobtrusive way:


Men hunted deer and used the deerskins to make pants and jackets and shoes. They called the deerskin buckskin.


Women knitted woolen socks for the whole family. They made linen yarn and wool yarn on their spinning wheels. Then they wove the yarns into a rough cloth called linsey-woolsey.


In winter, Abe and the other boys on the frontier wore linsey-woolsey shirts, buckskin pants called breeches, buckskin jackets, and buckskin moccasins. A coonskin cap with a tail hanging down the back kept a boy’s head warm.


Men were covered almost entirely with animal skin! Deer, raccoon and the wool of sheep provided most of their wardrobe. Only a little flax infiltrated their garments. (And just the words, "breeches," "buckskin," "linsey-woolsey" make the 19th century American frontier almost tactile.)


I even enjoy the lumpy illustrations by George Ulrich, circa 1992 — but I’d probably prefer the staid originals.