20 Following


Looking at Lincoln - Maira Kalman I've loved Maira Kalman's absurd style since Nancy bought Chicken Soup, Boots! back in the 90s.

Because this book is presented as a look at Lincoln's image and its saturation in popular culture, I find it a fine postmodern picturebook. Her trademark illustration style pays little homage to the photo realism we expect in informational text [Hi, Stacy!]. The framing and 'photo album' composition is consistent with the title--throughout the book I am looking in.

Free association and coincidence prompted the exploration, and these stayed with me throughout the story as she pieced her way toward a chronology. Kalman keeps the narrator's inquiring perspective and opinions front and center in the words. Some of the time junctures are abrupt ("He slept for two days. Then he woke up and grew up and decided to be a lawyer.") and others more smooth. Do these moments represent gaps in the available research, or did she just not feel like the intervening time was interesting?

Why do reviewers think the narrator is a little girl? She goes out by herself to coffee shops in the city and orders breakfast... She looks no smaller than other people in the illustrations... A simple assumption, but no clear evidence to say 'little girl', especially if you've seen Kalman's other books.

Kalman's use of unexpected colors is always a treat. In this book, pay close attention to the human skin. I was a bit disappointed that she abandoned this style for Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. It must have been difficult for someone whose strength is irreverent color to deal with figures she reveres. But I felt like she let go of her art, and the genre tipped toward informational. Curious.

On a second reading, I laughed out loud at the irony of the first page--such a funny beginning!