Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Book Review: "My Life with the Lincolns"

One of the forthcoming books that was getting some pretty significant buzz at the ALA Midwinter meeting among the publishers was Gayle Brandeis' My Life with the Lincolns (Henry Holt, coming out in mid-March). Being a sucker for a good YA story now and then, I was happy to receive an ARC, which I spent the last two evenings (and as much of the intervening day as my spare moments allowed) devouring.

It's 1966, and Mina Edelman (12) believes her family are the Lincolns reincarnated. Their names and ages match nicely (Mina's short for Wilhelmina, and her sisters are Roberta and Tabitha, called Tabby - just about as close as you can get to Robert, Willie, and Tad; her parents are Abraham and Margaret). Mina takes it as her goal to make sure her dad doesn't get murdered like his prior iteration, and is convinced she's going to die a horrible death just like young Willie did (this preoccupation brings about some of the funnier and more disturbing elements of the plot).

When Mina's dad gets involved with the Chicago Freedom Movement, and begins taking her to Martin Luther King, Jr. rallies, protest marches, and organizational meetings, her world - and that of her entire family - expands in some new and unexpected ways. Like Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars, this book tackles some serious issues - Vietnam, racism, family tensions - but does so while capturing in a truly special way the mindset of a young person caught up in events larger than herself.

At once funny, sad, and inspiring, this is a book that's going places.