Lincoln! (or, when pop culture aligns with your current obsession)

I am am so excited for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln which now has a release date of November 9.  The Chicago Tribune says this may be the year that the Lincoln wave “crests.”  Get me a surfboard, yo!

Now I have been late to the party on a few things.  When it comes to my Abraham Lincoln obsession, I’m about a century and a half late on that trend.

This all started in February.  I am an audiobook fiend as I am unable to read in a moving vehicle without spewing. I also like to spice up mundane tasks like folding laundry or steaming my dresses by listening to an audiobook (note: that last sentence is going to appear in the personal ad I post at age 85).  Basically, if I’m not reading a book I’m probably listening to one.

I randomly downloaded Chasing Lincoln’s Killer on audiobook.  I knew nothing about Lincoln other than the fact that he wore noteworthy hats.  Within 25 minutes of listening to James L. Swanson’s book, I was hooked.

There is no better audiobook in the world.  Will Patton narrates and he does an impeccable job.

This is the thing: I am Canadian.  Presidents don’t get much stage time on our curriculum. This is about the most excitement we get from a national leader (which, granted, was a big deal):

So before listening to Swanson’s book, I didn’t really get the Lincoln thing.  I certainly had no idea how insanely CRAY the events were before and after his assassination. The General Seward bit!?  Mother of Pearl, I almost had a heart attack.

Since listening to the audiobook of Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, I have watched several Lincoln documentaries and am slowly savouring Candace Fleming’s The Lincolns: a scrapbook look at Abraham and Mary.  No matter what is going on in my life, reading that dang scrapbook totally takes me away.  If I’m having a bad day, it always helps to know that I don’t have to tackle the abolition of slavery.  For some inexplicable reason, anything Lincoln-related has an uncanny ability to distract and comfort me.  This is exactly how those five-year-old boys who are obsessed with dinosaur books must feel.

So if The Chicago Tribune is right and the Lincoln wave is coming, that will no doubt trickle down to children’s books as all thing tend to do.  And I can’t wait.  It’s been tough for me to get Canuck kids and teens interested in Lincoln stuff (or, indoctrinate them with my obsession) because they have no point of reference and don’t really care about American presidents.  And there is so much great Lincoln stuff out there already, with some notable 2012 titles.  These are on my to-read list:

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship by Russell Freedman. Houghton MIfflin Harcourt, 2012

Magic Tree House #47: Abe Lincoln, At Last! by Mary Pope Osborne. Random House, 2012 (also has accompanying non-fiction Magic Tree House Fact Tracker)

Lincoln won the Caldecott,obvi. Abraham Lincoln by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire, 1940.
I need a bigger purse to carry this. Lincoln Shot by Barry Denenberg and Christopher Bing. Feiwel & Friends, 2008.

To close, here I am in a state of bliss outside the animatronic Lincoln Disneyland feature a few weeks ago post-ALA Saturday.  There was no line, because people are suckas and don’t realize that an animatronic Lincoln rivals Splash Mountain.

Tammy Grimes and Esther Averill. Audiobooks Don’t Get Better.

Even though I have this audiobook in my possession, I haven’t heard it for at least fifteen years.  I can only find it on vinyl and I don’t have a record player!  But, nevertheless, an ode to Averill and Grimes is in order.

I wish I could take better, not-dark picture in my living room. Sadly, this was the best of eleven...

I was a major audiobook kid.  I’m still very much an audiobook person.  I like to listen to them on the bus or while cleaning/putzing about the house.  If I’m doing something where I can’t devote 100% of my attention to the story, I’ll put on Charlotte’s Web read by E.B. White – my theory is that, if I listen to him enough, I’ll soak up some of his writing style.  Or I’ll develop a booming Massachusetts twang.

My favourite audiobooks as a chidler were Roald Dahl’s Matilda and The Witches (I can’t remember the readers – lovely British ladies) and the abridged Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island read by Megan Follows.  But nothing can ever top Esther Averill’s Jenny and the Cat Club read by Tammy Grimes (1978).

Grimes was a Broadway and television actress whose best-known audiobook accomplishment is likely Where The Wild Things Are (in addition to some other Sendak stories).  But man oh man, she nails Jenny Linsky.

Jenny Linsky is a black cat.  She lives with Captain Tinker (best name ever).  At night she rolls with her feline friends in the Cat Club: Concertina, Mr. President, Macaroni, The Duke, Romulus, Remus, Arabella, Antonio, and Solomon.  Anyone who doesn’t know these books is at a serious disadvantage in life.

I don’t know what it is about Grimes’ voice that lends itself so well to Averill’s stories.  There is something very old-fashioned and dear about the Jenny Linsky tales (the synopsis on the record calls them “unpretentious little classics”) and there is nothing particularly dear about Grimes’ voice.  It sounds very much like a cross between an ashtray, a cat’s purr, and a grandmotherly cajoling.

But there is something about Grimes’ reading that makes you believe she is just as pumped about the story as you are – she is utterly engaged and expressive to the hilt (but not in an overdone way).    I think I loved the audiobook so much because I felt like I had a kindred spirit in Grimes – she was just as wild about Jenny as I was. You could just hear it in her voice.

I borrowed the cassette tape over and over again from the library until one day it just disappeared (or, as I understand now, it went to the Land of the Weeded).  I thought about it often over the years and it was the first thing I looked up in WorldCat upon entering library school.  Now I just need to get my hands on (and learn how to use) a record player…