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  • 2009 Comstock Read Aloud Book Award

    Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall Thin Tale (Introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend) by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by John Hendrix, and published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2008.  

    Abe Lincoln Crosses a CreekImagine you are sitting on a Kentucky front porch hearing an experienced storyteller. The year is 1816 and the setting is the Kentucky valley near Knob Creek. Abraham Lincoln and his first best friend, Benjamin Austin Gollaher, better known as Austin, are about to get into a heap of trouble. Abe dares Austin to cross the high, raging waters of the creek to find some partridges. Since history doesn’t tell us exactly how the boys crossed the creek, the author/illustrator team adds tension by offering a couple of possibilities. The crux of the story though is that Austin makes it across, while Abe falls in, only to be saved by his steadfast friend. Abraham Lincoln never forgets his friend and years later as President during the Civil War, “Abe will be heard to say he’d rather see Austin Gollaher again than any other living man.”

    The illustrations in watercolor and pen-and-ink and the book’s large horizontal trim size invite children into the story. The artistic process is even displayed on the endpapers where we see the illustrator doodling as he works to create just the right set of pictures.

    Fourth through sixth graders listened intently to readers. They liked how the author talked and interacted with them and enjoyed how the illustrator drew the pictures as the story unfolded. Some of the students commented that Abe and his friend were just normal kids, and others were surprised that Abe disobeyed his mother (who had told him not to go near the creek). One fifth grader stated the author’s moral in his own words: “What we do matters; someday it may be history.”

    Deborah HopkinsonAuthor Deborah Hopkinson lives with her family near Portland, OR, while illustrator John Hendrix lives in St. Louis, MO with his wife and son. (Carol Hanson Sibley)