Create a List

List Name

Rename this List
Save to
Back to the Top Teaching Blog
February 9, 2017

Lincoln Literature With an Edge

By Lindsey Petlak
Grades 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    The Sticky Situation: President’s Day is just around the corner, and hailing from Illinois as well as growing up near Abraham Lincoln’s childhood home, I am ALL ABOUT LINCOLN every February. Over the years, having taught every grade from kindergarten through fourth, I noticed something disheartening, that I’m sure most upper elementary teachers have too: by the time kiddos reach your third, fourth, or fifth grade class (and beyond), they are “Lincolned-out.” What I mean by that is, they have read every Lincoln picture or early chapter book, learned all about his childhood, completed countless cutesie craftivities, and have frankly had enough of good ol’ Abe.

    Here’s the Problem: Upper elementary and middle school are the perfect times to delve deeper into the social, cultural, and historical issues surrounding Lincoln and his presidency. How many times can they hear about his childhood in a quaint little log cabin, or have fun with Abe’s classic top hat look? And in the end, are those really the most important aspects of Abe we should be teaching? They’ve had enough, and now it’s your problem, because reaching them and reactivating that interest can be very tough. If you don’t have their buy-in via interest, you cannot plunge into the REAL issues surrounding Lincoln, slavery, and the Civil War, and you can’t work on giving students a deeper understanding of this American icon, his life, and events surrounding his presidency and death.

    My Solution: Frankly, Lincoln’s life, work, impact, and ultimately his death are the stuff movies are made of — overcoming all odds, poverty turned to power, social and cultural injustice, scandal, murder, and mystery. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE fictional TV shows, movies, and books with these elements, and would bet your students do too. What’s even better is the fact that those elements are ALL part of the true story behind perhaps the most famous American president of all time.

    Why not LEVERAGE and CAPITALIZE on that? I searched the Scholastic Book Wizard for books about Lincoln that played up the often untold and intensely interesting elements of his life: adventure, drama, scandal, and murder, that will interest even your most reluctant and struggling readers. I guarantee your students haven’t had an overdose of “this lens of Lincoln!”

    Hand-Picked for High Interest: The following texts are a few Lincoln books from a much larger list in the Scholastic database. I have hand-picked these “edgy Abe” books that you might consider to boost interest, offer alternative perspectives, and resurrect the memory of Lincoln within your upper elementary and/or middle school classrooms.

    I Survived #7: I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863

    Official Summary: It's 1863, and Thomas and his father are slaves in South Carolina. But in the chaos of the Civil War, they manage to break free and head north. Through the Underground Railroad, they make their way to Pennsylvania. But they can't escape the war, and soon Thomas finds himself in the middle of a harrowing battle. He's come so far, but does he have what it takes to survive the Battle of Gettysburg? (Click here for levels and text specific details.)

    Why I Love It: My students ALWAYS love the “I Survived” series books, written by Lauren Tarshis. Why? Each story tells a terrifying and thrilling story from history, through the eyes of a boy who lived to tell the tale. This format of text is great for teaching perspective, diary/documentary format and writing style, and for building empathy within your students and the main character because they can relate to him. I also love that Scholastic supports and enhances these books with their own “I Survived” website. Check it out for extensions, resources, and more.

     

    Chasing Lincoln's Killer By James L. Swanson

    Official Summary: Based on rare archival material, obscure trial manuscripts, and interviews with relatives of the conspirators and the manhunters, Chasing Lincoln's Killer is a fast-paced thriller about the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth: a wild 12-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia. This book, based on Swanson's adult bestseller, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, is a true account for young readers about John Wilkes Booth's assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. "...the rich details and suspense are ever present. Excellent black-and-white illustrations complement the text. Readers will be engrossed by the almost hour-by-hour search and by the many people who encountered the killer as he tried to escape. It is a tale of intrigue and an engrossing mystery. (Click here for levels and text specific details.)

    Why I Love It: Growing up (and still today) I was absolutely intrigued by Lincoln’s murder and Booth. Lincoln’s assassination is one of the most important and memorable events in his life, and for students to follow an investigation and chase for his killer, is completely fascinating. As a teacher, you can tie in the elements of mystery genre, have students collect evidence and make hypotheses along the way, and even enact an investigation or court case around the events specifically outlined in this text. With such high-interest buy-in, you’ll find it easy to tie in standards from several different literacy categories!

     

    Lincoln's Grave Robbers By Steve Sheinkin

    Official Summary: A true crime thriller — the first book for teens to tell the nearly unknown tale of the brazen attempt to steal Abraham Lincoln's body! The action begins in October of 1875, as Secret Service agents raid the Fulton, Illinois, workshop of master counterfeiter Ben Boyd. Soon after Boyd is hauled off to prison, members of his counterfeiting ring gather in the back room of a smoky Chicago saloon to discuss how to spring their ringleader. Their plan: Grab Lincoln's body from its Springfield tomb, stash it in the sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and demand, as a ransom, the release of Ben Boyd and $200,000 in cash. From here, the action alternates between the conspirators, the Secret Service agents on their trail, and the undercover agent moving back and forth between the two groups. Along the way readers get glimpses into the inner workings of counterfeiting, grave robbing, detective work, and the early days of the Secret Service. The plot moves toward a wild climax as robbers and lawmen converge at Lincoln's tomb on election night: November 7, 1876. (Click here for levels and text specific details.)

    Why I Love It: Say what?!?! How did I not know about this as a huge Lincoln fan? What’s better than investigating Abe’s murder and chasing his assassin? Digging (pun intended) into the mystery surrounding the dubious gravediggers! Imagine how students would cling to every word they read or listen to about people who schemed to dig up Lincoln’s grave and use his body for ransom. Think about the debates with fact-based evidence and justification you could tie into this text. Adding this onto previous knowledge about his life and death, makes this book a perfect pairing for timeline plotting to help support their cases.

     

    10 Days: Abraham Lincoln By David Colbert

    Official Summary: Ten crucial days that changed the course of history! You're about to be an eyewitness to the 10 crucial days in Abraham Lincoln's life, including: A tragic loss that sets a boy on a course for greatness. A career sacrificed to protest an unjust war. A state resorting to treason to preserve slavery. A president who learns the most difficult decisions are made alone And a promise made to every citizen that American's slaves will be free. These days and five others shook Lincoln's world — and yours. Offering a unique look at history, this fascinating biography focuses on the most important days in President Abraham Lincoln's illustrious life. (Click here for levels and text specific details.)

    Why I Love It: Too often, student exposure to the life of Lincoln is centered around the same old stuff: log cabin, childhood poverty, growing up, his iconic look, he ended slavery (with no real study of how or the sacrifices that took), etc. This book zeroes in on the 10 most crucial days of Lincoln’s life and action taken within those days that made an impact on history. As upper elementary and middle school teachers, it is our responsibility and privilege to paint a picture of Lincoln that goes deeper than surface level. What key events made this man an American icon? What dates in time mark history-altering events during his life and work? This book makes it simple and effective for both teachers and students!

    Edgy Enhancements: Skip the fluff when engaging students in Lincoln-themed classroom activities. They have enjoyed crafts, games, and more in the years leading up to your upper elementary or middle school classrooms. It’s now time to immerse them in an experience that will truly give them perspective on the life, times, and issues of Lincoln.

     

    As usual, Scholastic has you covered! Their Underground Railroad simulation journey is one-of-a-kind and truly amazing. You may use the teacher resources and guide to help you plan out this engaging simulation. This type of virtual first-hand experience, combined with edgy Abe literature means you will have student interest captivated, and will be able to educate your students on the deeper issues surrounding one of America’s favorite and most impactful presidents of all time. The best part? All of the resources you need for reading material and student activities are available at your fingertips from Scholastic!

     

    Thank you for reading, and I hope this list of recommendations gives your focus on Honest Abe an edge! See you next month!

    Best,
    Lindsey

     

     

    The Sticky Situation: President’s Day is just around the corner, and hailing from Illinois as well as growing up near Abraham Lincoln’s childhood home, I am ALL ABOUT LINCOLN every February. Over the years, having taught every grade from kindergarten through fourth, I noticed something disheartening, that I’m sure most upper elementary teachers have too: by the time kiddos reach your third, fourth, or fifth grade class (and beyond), they are “Lincolned-out.” What I mean by that is, they have read every Lincoln picture or early chapter book, learned all about his childhood, completed countless cutesie craftivities, and have frankly had enough of good ol’ Abe.

    Here’s the Problem: Upper elementary and middle school are the perfect times to delve deeper into the social, cultural, and historical issues surrounding Lincoln and his presidency. How many times can they hear about his childhood in a quaint little log cabin, or have fun with Abe’s classic top hat look? And in the end, are those really the most important aspects of Abe we should be teaching? They’ve had enough, and now it’s your problem, because reaching them and reactivating that interest can be very tough. If you don’t have their buy-in via interest, you cannot plunge into the REAL issues surrounding Lincoln, slavery, and the Civil War, and you can’t work on giving students a deeper understanding of this American icon, his life, and events surrounding his presidency and death.

    My Solution: Frankly, Lincoln’s life, work, impact, and ultimately his death are the stuff movies are made of — overcoming all odds, poverty turned to power, social and cultural injustice, scandal, murder, and mystery. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE fictional TV shows, movies, and books with these elements, and would bet your students do too. What’s even better is the fact that those elements are ALL part of the true story behind perhaps the most famous American president of all time.

    Why not LEVERAGE and CAPITALIZE on that? I searched the Scholastic Book Wizard for books about Lincoln that played up the often untold and intensely interesting elements of his life: adventure, drama, scandal, and murder, that will interest even your most reluctant and struggling readers. I guarantee your students haven’t had an overdose of “this lens of Lincoln!”

    Hand-Picked for High Interest: The following texts are a few Lincoln books from a much larger list in the Scholastic database. I have hand-picked these “edgy Abe” books that you might consider to boost interest, offer alternative perspectives, and resurrect the memory of Lincoln within your upper elementary and/or middle school classrooms.

    I Survived #7: I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863

    Official Summary: It's 1863, and Thomas and his father are slaves in South Carolina. But in the chaos of the Civil War, they manage to break free and head north. Through the Underground Railroad, they make their way to Pennsylvania. But they can't escape the war, and soon Thomas finds himself in the middle of a harrowing battle. He's come so far, but does he have what it takes to survive the Battle of Gettysburg? (Click here for levels and text specific details.)

    Why I Love It: My students ALWAYS love the “I Survived” series books, written by Lauren Tarshis. Why? Each story tells a terrifying and thrilling story from history, through the eyes of a boy who lived to tell the tale. This format of text is great for teaching perspective, diary/documentary format and writing style, and for building empathy within your students and the main character because they can relate to him. I also love that Scholastic supports and enhances these books with their own “I Survived” website. Check it out for extensions, resources, and more.

     

    Chasing Lincoln's Killer By James L. Swanson

    Official Summary: Based on rare archival material, obscure trial manuscripts, and interviews with relatives of the conspirators and the manhunters, Chasing Lincoln's Killer is a fast-paced thriller about the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth: a wild 12-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia. This book, based on Swanson's adult bestseller, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, is a true account for young readers about John Wilkes Booth's assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. "...the rich details and suspense are ever present. Excellent black-and-white illustrations complement the text. Readers will be engrossed by the almost hour-by-hour search and by the many people who encountered the killer as he tried to escape. It is a tale of intrigue and an engrossing mystery. (Click here for levels and text specific details.)

    Why I Love It: Growing up (and still today) I was absolutely intrigued by Lincoln’s murder and Booth. Lincoln’s assassination is one of the most important and memorable events in his life, and for students to follow an investigation and chase for his killer, is completely fascinating. As a teacher, you can tie in the elements of mystery genre, have students collect evidence and make hypotheses along the way, and even enact an investigation or court case around the events specifically outlined in this text. With such high-interest buy-in, you’ll find it easy to tie in standards from several different literacy categories!

     

    Lincoln's Grave Robbers By Steve Sheinkin

    Official Summary: A true crime thriller — the first book for teens to tell the nearly unknown tale of the brazen attempt to steal Abraham Lincoln's body! The action begins in October of 1875, as Secret Service agents raid the Fulton, Illinois, workshop of master counterfeiter Ben Boyd. Soon after Boyd is hauled off to prison, members of his counterfeiting ring gather in the back room of a smoky Chicago saloon to discuss how to spring their ringleader. Their plan: Grab Lincoln's body from its Springfield tomb, stash it in the sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and demand, as a ransom, the release of Ben Boyd and $200,000 in cash. From here, the action alternates between the conspirators, the Secret Service agents on their trail, and the undercover agent moving back and forth between the two groups. Along the way readers get glimpses into the inner workings of counterfeiting, grave robbing, detective work, and the early days of the Secret Service. The plot moves toward a wild climax as robbers and lawmen converge at Lincoln's tomb on election night: November 7, 1876. (Click here for levels and text specific details.)

    Why I Love It: Say what?!?! How did I not know about this as a huge Lincoln fan? What’s better than investigating Abe’s murder and chasing his assassin? Digging (pun intended) into the mystery surrounding the dubious gravediggers! Imagine how students would cling to every word they read or listen to about people who schemed to dig up Lincoln’s grave and use his body for ransom. Think about the debates with fact-based evidence and justification you could tie into this text. Adding this onto previous knowledge about his life and death, makes this book a perfect pairing for timeline plotting to help support their cases.

     

    10 Days: Abraham Lincoln By David Colbert

    Official Summary: Ten crucial days that changed the course of history! You're about to be an eyewitness to the 10 crucial days in Abraham Lincoln's life, including: A tragic loss that sets a boy on a course for greatness. A career sacrificed to protest an unjust war. A state resorting to treason to preserve slavery. A president who learns the most difficult decisions are made alone And a promise made to every citizen that American's slaves will be free. These days and five others shook Lincoln's world — and yours. Offering a unique look at history, this fascinating biography focuses on the most important days in President Abraham Lincoln's illustrious life. (Click here for levels and text specific details.)

    Why I Love It: Too often, student exposure to the life of Lincoln is centered around the same old stuff: log cabin, childhood poverty, growing up, his iconic look, he ended slavery (with no real study of how or the sacrifices that took), etc. This book zeroes in on the 10 most crucial days of Lincoln’s life and action taken within those days that made an impact on history. As upper elementary and middle school teachers, it is our responsibility and privilege to paint a picture of Lincoln that goes deeper than surface level. What key events made this man an American icon? What dates in time mark history-altering events during his life and work? This book makes it simple and effective for both teachers and students!

    Edgy Enhancements: Skip the fluff when engaging students in Lincoln-themed classroom activities. They have enjoyed crafts, games, and more in the years leading up to your upper elementary or middle school classrooms. It’s now time to immerse them in an experience that will truly give them perspective on the life, times, and issues of Lincoln.

     

    As usual, Scholastic has you covered! Their Underground Railroad simulation journey is one-of-a-kind and truly amazing. You may use the teacher resources and guide to help you plan out this engaging simulation. This type of virtual first-hand experience, combined with edgy Abe literature means you will have student interest captivated, and will be able to educate your students on the deeper issues surrounding one of America’s favorite and most impactful presidents of all time. The best part? All of the resources you need for reading material and student activities are available at your fingertips from Scholastic!

     

    Thank you for reading, and I hope this list of recommendations gives your focus on Honest Abe an edge! See you next month!

    Best,
    Lindsey

     

     

Comments

Share your ideas about this article

Lindsey's Most Recent Posts
Blog Post
Super Silly Seasonal STEM

Get directions and tips for this super silly seasonal STEM project inspired by the holiday classic, Home Alone.

By Lindsey Petlak
December 14, 2016
Blog Post
Frightful Factors Math Practice

Avoid Halloween havoc with this fun, engaging skeleton-themed math factors practice!

By Lindsey Petlak
October 20, 2016
Blog Post
3 Ways to Boost Back-to-School Spirit

Raise school spirit to a new level with my three favorite back-to-school treats for colleagues and teammates!

By Lindsey Petlak
August 26, 2016
Blog Post
Sign Up for Scholastic's Teacher Newsletter

Sign up for Scholastic's Teacher Newsletter to get lessons, timely activities, grab-and-go printables, and book-based teaching ideas delivered to you every month in the school year!

By Lindsey Petlak
June 16, 2016
My Scholastic

Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
About Us