Vinnie and Abraham
When she spoke to him, he was "Mr. President." But in her head, he was Abraham, her friend.
Vinnie Ream, a determined young sculptor, became the youngest artist and the first woman to receive a commission from the U.S. government when she was chosen to sculpt the memorial statue of Abraham Lincoln that now stands in the Capitol rotunda.
Like Mr. Lincoln, Vinnie came from humble beginnings, growing up poor in the Wisconsin territory. Early on she displayed a talent for sculpture, but because she had to work to help her family, she was mainly self-taught. When Vinnie moved with her family to Washington, D.C., during the Civil War, Vinnie tirelessly worked toward her goal of becoming an artist. By the time she was sixteen, she was apprenticing for a prominent sculptor and creating busts of several leading politicians who wanted their likenesses cast in stone. She used these connections to finally meet and sculpt the bust of her hero, the president. Vinnie’s story is sure to inspire young readers to work hard to achieve their own goals.
Catherine Stock’s vibrant and reverent illustrations capture Vinnie’s vivacious personality as well as her steadfast resolve to honor Abraham Lincoln.
Look Inside the Book:
Author & Illustrator Bios:Dawn FitzGerald, author
Dawn FitzGerald is a former teacher and the author of several books for children, including Getting in the Game (Roaring Brook Press) and Julia Butterfly Hill: Saving the Redwoods (Millbrook Press). She lives with her husband and two children in Pepper Pike, Ohio.
Read more about Dawn.
Read a Q&A with Dawn.
Catherine Stock, illustrator
Catherine Stock is the author and illustrator of A Spree in Paree (Holiday House) and the illustrator of the popular Gus and Grandpa series (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), among many other books for children. She divides her time between New York and France.
Read more about Catherine.
Awards & Honors:
- A Junior Library Guild Selection
- ABC Best Books for Children
- Booklist Top 10 Youth Biographies
- Booklist Top 10 Arts Books for Youth
- NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
- Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year
- Cleveland Public Library Distinguished Children's Biography List
Vinnie Ream was very small (under five-feet-tall), but she was also strong, smart and a talented sculptor. Her standing statue of President Abraham Lincoln in the capitol rotunda was completed when she was still a teenager. FitzGerald romanticized and sentimentalizes her story, but Vinnie did indeed work at the post office during the Civil War, and sang for wounded soldiers in hospital. Vinnie spent five months sculpting Lincoln's head in clay in preparation, and she was the youngest artist and the first woman to receive a commission from the government. She went on to sculpt many other notable Americans, including Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee and Sequoyah. Stock's watercolor illustrations capture Vinnie's beautiful energy, as well as life in Washington DC during and after the war. The author's note explains that while several of the quotes are fiction, the story is based on the sculptor's writings and other biographies of her. A resource list will allow readers to explore further in print and online.
Booklist, starred review
This picture-book biography presents Vinnie Ream as a young woman who transcended the conventions of her time through determination and a remarkable talent for sculpture. Living in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War, Vinnie, 14, became one of the U.S. Postal Service’s first female employees, but she spent her spare time modeling in clay. She apprenticed herself to a renowned sculptor and progressed so well that at 18, she had daily sessions with President Lincoln while she worked to create his likeness. After Lincoln’s assassination, Congress commissioned her to sculpt a marble statue of the late president, which is still on display in the Capital rotunda. Fitzgerald’s clearly written narrative portrays Vinnie as a hardworking, resolute person who succeeded through her own gifts and the help of others who believed in her. Stock’s watercolor paintings light up the pages. The joy of the Washington street scene marking the war’s end is all the more vibrant in contrast with quiet pictures of Vinnie sculpting the president. Back matter includes an author’s note about Vinnie’s later life as well as a list of books and online resources. A spirited introduction to a little-known artist.
School Library Journal
Vinnie Ream is best known for her life-size marble statue of Abraham Lincoln, unveiled in 1871 when she was only 23 years old, that stands in the Capitol Rotunda. Little information on this fascinating American sculptor has been available for an elementary audience. FitzGerald does a credible job of filling that gap. She chronicles Ream’s life, including her Wisconsin childhood, the family’s move to Washington, DC, at the beginning of the Civil War, and her distinction, at the age of 14, of being one of the first women hired by the U.S. Post Office. She covers Ream’s apprenticeship to a prominent sculptor and her growing relationships with Congressmen who came to have their statues made, and who eventually persuaded the president to sit for her. FitzGerald puts the controversy surrounding her receipt of the commission for Lincoln’s memorial statue in a context understandable by elementary students, avoiding mention of the scandalous allegations made at the time concerning how an inexperienced young woman could sway members of Congress. No mention is made of Ream’s possible involvement in affecting the vote during Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial. Stock’s watercolors capture the energy and excitement of both the young woman and Civil War Washington, although why the endpapers are festooned with a jumble of flowers is a mystery. An author’s note discusses which aspects of the book have been fictionalized and the remainder of the woman’s life. While the writing seems rushed at times, this is a good introduction.
Library Media Connection
Although the dialogue in the story is made up, the book is based upon the life of Vinnie Ream, a gifted, self-taught sculptor, and her own writings. When the Civil War began many companies were hiring women. Vinnie got a job at the post office to help her family, but was determined not to give up her art. She apprenticed to a famous sculptor, Clark Mills. Through Vinnie's persistence and Mills' efforts, Vinnie got the chance to sculpt a bust of Abraham Lincoln. After Lincoln's death, Congress wanted to hire a sculptor to do a statue. There were many male sculptors who applied for the job, but they couldn't offer a suitable portrayal of Lincoln. Vinnie became the youngest artist to receive a commission from the United States government. Her sculpture of Abraham Lincoln is still on display at the rotunda, as is her last sculpture of Sequoyah, creator of the Chorkee alphabet. Although there are many books written about Abraham Lincoln, Vinnie and Abraham is interesting, informative, and tells the story of a young girl from humble beginnings who never gave up on her dream. Pictures and drawings illustrate the time period very well. This book would be a wonderful addition to any library. Highly Recommended
This nonfiction book, Vinnie and Abraham by Dawn FitzGerald contains a lot of helpful and interesting information. History can be found on every page. Children will learn about President Lincoln, what life is like when he was president, a lot about historical art, and how a young female artist becomes famous. Vinnie Ream is a young woman and a talented sculptor who wants to sculpt for a living. Vinnie's family does not have much money. At the age of fourteen she becomes one of the first women to work at the post office, and in addition to that she takes sculpting lessons and apprentices with the famous Washington, DC artist Clark Mills. Through her experiences as an artist, her dream to sculpt Abraham Lincoln comes true. If you are looking for a fun book to learn something from or to read to your class and family, then this book is the one for you. Sad at times but happy too, it makes you feel like you are part of the story. Not only children but adults will benefit from reading this informative book. Growing up, Dawn FitzGerald wanted to be a firefighter, an artist, a professional soccer player, a nun, a lawyer, and the president. Instead, she chose to be a writer. In her spare time she loves to read. Some of her favorite books are The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. This is her most recent book. Other books authored by her include Julia Butterfly Hill: Saving the Redwoods, Getting in the Game, and Soccer Chicks Rule. FitzGerald is a former teacher and lives with her husband and two kids in Pepper Pike, Ohio.
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Page count: 48
10 x 8
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