Friday, July 29, 2016

The Lincoln Project

The Lincoln Project
Dan Gutman
HarperCollins, 2016 224 pgs
Grades 3-6
Fantasy/Historical Fiction/Adventure
Flashback Four Series # 1

Four seemingly unconnected kids. two boys and two girls, are recruited to attend a meeting hosted by the mysterious Miss Z. Miss Z is rich, yet in poor health, and is an avid historical photo-collector. The photo she craves more than any other is one of Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg address, which does not exist. The speech was short and no photographer was able to capture the moment. Miss Z and her team of researchers have developed a time machine fashioned out of a smart-board. She plans to send the kids back to the 1800's with a camera and a cellphone that can communicate through time and capture this pivotal moment in U.S. history. After securing parent's permission the team is sent back into the past; though, unfortunately, a day early. They must find food and shelter for a full twenty-four hours before it is time for the historic moment. Many adventures ensue, including a near-disastrous encounter with Lincoln's son, Tad. Finally the moment of the speech has come and the four young people are in place, when capturing the picture proves to be trickier than first imagined. A misunderstanding leads the Flashback Four to further danger and a serious run-in with the law. Will they be able to complete their mission and return to the present day?

Popular children's author, Dan Gutman, presents another series for young people filled with action, adventure, and laughs. Readers will learn about the Civil War and its famous commander and chief, all while being highly entertained. The Gettysburg address is offered in its entirety, all though in snippets, exposing kids to this famous speech that we think we know, but really don't. The difference between the Gettysburg Address and the Emancipation Proclamation, which I must admit I have always been fuzzy on, is explained in context, allowing for kids to learn even though they may not realize it. Meanwhile, history becomes current as we experience it through the eyes of these four contemporary young people. This book is perfect for reluctant readers and reads quickly. The chapters end with exciting cliff-hangers, encouraging kids to flip pages. Throughout the story actual photographs and documents are included. Featuring Tad Lincoln as a character makes Abraham more of a person and less of an icon and Tad is an interesting character and welcome addition in his own right. Gutman includes an author's note at the end separating the fact from fiction in order to set the reader straight. The time-travel aspect is not that believable and the characters are not that developed, but readers won't care: its not that kind of a book. The story ends in a satisfactory, though not perfect, way, allowing for a convenient segue to the next installment. This new series presents history in a fun and digestible way for young people and they will happy sail through its pages.

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