Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Award-winning historical writer Paul Horgan was asked by the editors of The Saturday Evening Post to write a biographical essay devoted to Abraham Lincoln’s formative years as a young citizen of New Salem, Illinois, in honor of the centennial of Lincoln’s first inauguration in 1861. The chronicle was subsequently published as the book Citizen of New Salem. It covers Lincoln’s life from the age of twenty-one until he was twenty-eight, years that came to be seen as having been very important to the development of the future president. Each of the eight brief chapters is introduced by a sentence or phrase, most of them from the brief autobiography written by Lincoln during his presidential campaign. Muted pencil drawings by Douglas Gorsline, including several full-page ones, enhance the text. A brief bibliography is provided.

The volume refers to familiar events. It tells of the winter of 18301831, the time of the “long snow” in that part of Illinois, and of Lincoln’s trip on Denton Offutt’s flatboat from the Sangamon River to the Illinois River and into the Mississippi, all the way to New Orleans. The book includes such traditional stories as the one in which Lincoln, as a clerk in Offutt’s store, is said to have walked six miles at the end of a busy day because he had shortchanged a customer; that of his encounter with Jack Armstrong and the Clary’s Grove Boys, wherein he proved himself equal to a physical challenge; and...

(The entire section is 476 words.)