Book #179: Vinnie and Abraham

vinnie and abrhaham -- coverHappy Lincoln’s Birthday!  If you are just checking in, you might want to go back a few days and learn about a few other Lincoln picture books I’ve discussed this week.  Today, on Lincoln’s actual birthday, I’m writing about a fascinating story published in 2007. While there have been many children’s books about the little girl who encouraged Abe Lincoln to grow whiskers, there have been fewer about Vinnie Ream, the young sculptress who was determined and talented enough to eventually convince this famous president to sit for her.

At the start of the Civil War, Vinnie moved with her family to Washington D.C., where she took work in a Post Office to help her family make ends meet. Once, on the street, she caught a glance of the tall president in his stovepipe hat. She longed for her home, where she could scoop up some mud from the Wisconsin riverbanks and mold the president’s face in clay.

Vinnie and Abraham -- street

Vinnie knocked on the door of a famous sculptor in Washington, who gave her a chance to sculpt something for him. He was amazed at her talent and offered her a job as apprentice right away. She began sculpting various congressmen around town, but the person she most wanted to carve was of course Abraham Lincoln. The congressmen laughed at her, but eventually word of Vinnie’s talent spread. Several congressmen agreed to talk to the president to try and convince them of Vinnie’s talent. Lincoln always replied, “Why would anyone want to sculpt such a homely man?”

It was only when Lincoln learned that Vinnie was self-taught and raised in a log cabin out west that he agreed. She was only sixteen years old when she landed the job. Lincoln sat for her five days a week for thirty minutes at a time. The job was complete in five months.

After Lincoln’s death, Vinnie Ream had to fight for the opportunity to create the much larger statue of Abraham Lincoln that now stands in the capital rotunda. Many were opposed to a woman artist taking on such an important job. But she persevered and eventually won the fight to create this impressive statue.  All were amazed when it was revealed.

The book is beautifully written with an engaging text and fictional dialogue that dramatizes the true story to great effect. I love the picture of Lincoln sitting for Vinnie in his study while she works on carving his likeness. As the story goes, they spoke about their common childhood and their love for music and books.  ABZ

Vinnie and Abraham -- b:w


vinnie and abraham -- vinnie ream

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