Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Carl Sandburg’s Abe Lincoln Grows Up is a biography, an American history text, a world history text, and a sociological study of the United States at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The book tells the saga of the Lincoln family, beginning with Abraham Lincoln’s grandfather and continuing until Abe is nineteen years of age. The numerous black-and-white illustrations by James Daugherty add much to the story.

Sandburg presents Lincoln’s biography against a backdrop of American and world history, as well as the sociological aspects of that era. As Sandburg discusses various events and years, he makes sure that the reader is aware of the events in the United States and the world that might have affected Lincoln’s life. When chapters deal with sociological aspects, such as sayings and beliefs, religion, and music, Sandburg presents numerous examples.

Although there are no titles for the twenty-six chapters, each double-page spread has a heading describing an event or theme on those two pages. Despite the general absence of footnotes or endnotes, Sandburg adds one footnote which states that he based his conversational utterances on sources he deemed authentic. This book is drawn from the first twenty-seven chapters of Sandburg’s two-volume biography of Lincoln entitled Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (1926) and Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (1928). Sandburg’s love of poetry and his expertise in that area are evident in his descriptive passages.

In addition to the childhood of Abraham Lincoln, readers are treated to brief sections on Daniel Boone, the settling of Kentucky, Napoleon Bonaparte, John James Audubon, and the tall-tale characters Mike Fink and Johnny Appleseed. The first three chapters portray Lincoln’s paternal grandparents, the life of his father, and his father’s courtship of Nancy Hanks. The remainder of the book is devoted to Lincoln’s life and to the events that helped shape him into the famous figure that he became. Each chapter begins with an interesting black-and-white illustration. Eighteen full-page pictures and numerous half-page sketches adorn this book.