Happy Presidents' Day, parents, librarians, book fanatics, writers, and readers of all sorts! We're ecstatic to have talented rhymer and picture book author Eileen Meyer with us today. Her book, The Superlative A. Lincoln, Poems About our 16th President (illustrated by Dave Szalay), is filled with fun facts and rhymes about President Lincoln. It's a perfect addition to any school or home library and would truly be enjoyed by anyone who loves both poetry and history. Want to know more about Eileen, her book, PLUS want some tips on rhyming from the Rhyme Doctor herself? Read on...
Q: Hi, Eileen! Welcome to #SeasonsOfKidLit. We're thrilled to have you and hear all about your book, The Superlative A. Lincoln, Poems About our 16th President - the perfect read for Presidents' Day and any day of the year! Can you share a little more with the readers about what inspired your passion for Abraham Lincoln?
A: I hail from the “Land of Lincoln” and spent most of my childhood and adult life residing in the state of Illinois. Over the years I enjoyed visiting many sites that were part of Lincoln’s life history. The city of Springfield is where Lincoln practiced law and lived most of his adult life and now is the home of the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. New Salem is the town Lincoln first lived in when he moved to the state as a young man after he and his family left Indiana. There he ran the general store and served as postmaster. So, I was very familiar with the contours of his life. Back in 2014, I was reading and enjoying an adult biography about our sixteenth president and thought—there are so many more stories here about his life, perhaps there is a fresh take on a children’s book for this amazing president. And that’s where it started and grew into my picture book The Superlative A. Lincoln: Poems About Our 16th President (Charlesbridge Publishing). This book has been honored as a Florida Book Award winner (Silver Medal – Older Children’s Literature) and Illinois READS selection.
Q: What age group do you most recommend this book for, and why? How will it tie into the social studies curriculum?
A: I like to say my books are for readers and listeners ages 1 – 99! I’ve had many adults who are history lovers and Lincoln fans show up at my book talks and signings, so truly this book is for all ages. But typically, the sweet spot is upper elementary, grades 3-5, but I often share programs with middle schoolers, and lower elementary students as well. Many of the topics we discuss are applicable to all ages. Subject matter such as Lincoln’s education and self-learning, how an important teenage incident shaped his dreams for the future, how he effectively used his skills as a storyteller to connect with others, and more – these are all universal topics ripe for discussion and make great dinner table conversations for families.
In the school curriculum, this ties into US History and the Civil War era, US Presidents, as well as Language Arts Studies with the introduction to superlatives and how they are used. This picture book celebrates superlatives, which most kids find fascinating. They enjoy learning about who is the tallest, the first at something, or the best at accomplishing a particular milestone. And each Abraham Lincoln story is told through poetry—there are nineteen poems in this 48-page picture book. For example, you’ll learn why Lincoln was the “Most Distracted Farmer” when he was a young man, that he was known as the “Best Wrestler” in the county and had the “Most Surprising Friendship” with another famous icon. I was excited to work on this project with illustrator Dave Szalay. Dave’s creativity, attention to historical detail, plus his fresh and unique style are all evident in his beautiful art for this book. His art really engages the readers.
Q: We can tell a lot of effort and research went into The Superlative A. Lincoln. And we know perfect rhyme is not as easy as it seems! How long did it take you to write your book?
A: I wrote the book over a twelve-to-eighteen-month period. I used poems as a way to tell stories about Lincoln’s life. Most people are familiar with the framework of Lincoln’s life, so I was able to build upon that general knowledge base. Poems allowed me to dive deeper into each fresh anecdote. I think poetry also provides the reader with an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect. Using lyrical language, sound, rhythm, and form, a poem can engage a reader in a very special way. Additionally, most poems are bite-sized morsels and include plenty of white space on the page. That space allows readers to think and dream about the topic, providing room to form their own connections. I hope that young readers will relate to these stories about our sixteenth president and will also consider how Lincoln’s actions and wisdom still apply to our world today.
Q: What is a "presidential way" in which you celebrate Presidents' Day?
A: Abraham Lincoln was all about being the best possible version of himself that he could be. He faced problems with great care and consideration, he continued to learn and grow intellectually throughout his life, he was patient and able to work through difficult issues without losing focus, and so much more. I think that in addition to celebrating his impact on our country on Presidents’ Day (and also his birthday – just past on February 12th), we can each try to be the best that we can be . . . so read something to stimulate your mind, exercise your body, do a good deed for someone else and be the best version of yourself to celebrate his legacy. That’s something we can all agree upon!
Q: Well said, Eileen! What inspired your love for poetry and what resources do you recommend for those writing poetry? We know writing in rhyme is seemingly easy, yet extremly difficult to perfect.
A: I’ve always loved the lyrical and musical quality of poetry. My late father read favorite poems to me and my siblings when we were young – such precious memories! So perhaps I was just conditioned since the days of my own childhood to have an affinity for poetry. I began writing for children by selling individual poems to magazines. I love the use of poetic devices such as alliteration, assonance, rhyme, repetition and more – all packed into one tiny package of a poem. I’m a member of the Rhyme Doctors team along with fellow children’s poets Patricia Toht and Michelle Schaub, and we share a bi-monthly newsletter that provides insights for those who like to read and write in rhyme. (Sign up for our free newsletter at RhymeDoctors.com ) There are a number of great resources for anyone getting started with poem-making.
My top three include:
A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms ed. by Paul Janeczko
Poem-Making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry by Myra Cohn Livingston
A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry by Mary Oliver
Thanks so much for giving us a closer look at your book, Eileen! And, thanks for sharing your rhyming tips with us!
About Eileen Meyer:
Eileen Rajala Meyer writes picture books and poetry for young readers. Her children’s books include the award-winning title, THE SUPERLATIVE A. LINCOLN; SWEET DREAMS, WILD ANIMALS; BALLPARK; and WHO'S FASTER? ANIMALS ON THE MOVE. Stay tuned for more information about her upcoming title, BUILD A SANDCASTLE. Her poetry has appeared in children’s magazines including Highlights for Children, Ladybug, and Highlights High Five.
Eileen splits time between the great states of Illinois and Florida. When she’s not writing or visiting schools, you can find her cheering for the Chicago Cubs and spending time with her family. Visit her website at www.eileenmeyerbooks.com and drop her a line on her contact page!
For more about Eileen, check out the below links:
Twitter: Eileen R. Meyer (@Writer_Meyer)
Instagram: Eileen Meyer (@eileenmeyerbooks)
To purchase Eileen's books on Amazon, or to leave a review, click here.