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New book explores similarities between Lincoln and Kennedy

You’re not the only kid in the world who likes ice cream.

Lots of kids do; everybody loves a good treat. Other people like biking, puppies, candy and video games, too. You’re unique, but you have a lot in common with a lot of people, and in the new book “Lincoln and Kennedy: A Pair to Compare” by Gene Barretta, you’ll see how two great men were alike a century apart.

When you first take a look at Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy, they’re just two ordinary presidents. Lincoln was a Republican, and Kennedy was a Democrat. Lincoln was born in 1809, and Kennedy was born in 1917. Lincoln ’s family was poor; Kennedy’s was not.

So far, so different, right?

Not so fast.

Both men were military leaders: Lincoln in the Black Hawk War and Kennedy in World War II. Both were elected to the House of Representatives, Lincoln in 1846 and Kennedy in 1946. They were nominated for the vice presidency 100 years apart, but neither won their election.

Lincoln and his wife, Mary, lost a child before moving into the White House, and then again after their move. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, lost a child before moving into the White House, and then again after their move.

Wow, huh? Just wait.

Lincoln absolutely hated slavery and did everything he could to stop it. That’s why he was a Republican, as that party wanted to end slavery. After the Civil War, Lincoln met with Frederick Douglass, who knew Lincoln was “committed to the cause.”

Kennedy hated Jim Crow laws and wanted to give African Americans equal rights. He met with Martin Luther King Jr., who knew Kennedy was committed to the cause. In 1963, Kennedy presented a Civil Rights bill to Congress.

Lincoln was shot on a Friday in Ford’s Theatre; Kennedy was shot on a Friday while riding in a Ford Lincoln. Andrew Johnson took over the Presidency when Lincoln died; Lyndon Johnson took over the Presidency when Kennedy died.

Today, if you stand at Kennedy’s grave, you can see the Lincoln Memorial.

For about as long as there’s been an Internet, most of what’s inside this book has been on it. That doesn’t mean, of course, that your child’s seen these eerie coincidences before, so “Lincoln and Kennedy: A Pair to Compare” just might dazzle him.

Starting with, and mixing in, balancing differences amid the similarities Barretta shows kids how history can be a weird and wonderful thing, especially when it comes to these two influential presidents. Barretta doesn’t try to make things light; he states facts in straightforward, simple language, allowing his illustrations to bring the smiles here. Though I thought the comparison ends with a whimper, it quickly snaps back with audience-pleasing tidbits that kids will love.

Though this may look like a children’s picture book, the terminology inside is meant more for older readers, up to sixth grade. For them — and maybe even for you — “Lincoln and Kennedy: A Pair to Compare” is a nice treat.

View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for children weekly.

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