United States President Abraham Lincoln was one of the most influential leaders in American history. Many argue he also suffered from a long-stemmed bout of depression -- a point made by Joshua Wolf Shenk in "Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness."
Shenk writes: "Unipolar depression, which Lincoln would struggle with his whole life, typically breaks into the open in the mid- to late twenties. Lincoln was twenty-six" (p. 22).
Kansas City author Robert Bloch brings a new perspective to the historical figure. His recent children's book, "My Best Friend, Abe Lincoln: A Tale of Two Boys from Indiana," highlights the president's Midwest roots by following a fictional account of a childhood friendship.
Bloch says he's always been fascinated with two things: Lincoln and antique stores. His degree in art history aides his search for etchings and prints, but he recently found a fictional diary of Sam Harding's. This find fueled the conception of his children's book.
"This is my first children's book," Bloch says, adding he would like to create a series in the future.
"My Best Friend, Abe Lincoln" mixes a children's story with a nearly biographical style. It's refreshing. The book is recommended for 5-8 year olds, and few young reader books point children toward history. This story, additionally, leads them to education and courage.
The author unites elements of family life, education and children's games from Pioneer America with a central story of Lincoln's innate curiosity and eagerness to learn. From pen to paper, Bloch's story could easily spark historic interest for young readers.
"I just wanted to see what it was like" to publish a children's book, Bloch says.
Illustrator John W. Ewing previously worked for Walt Disney Studios and now contracts work from New Zealand. His illustrations bear the intricate emotions of young Abe and Sam without sacrificing the frontier setting.
Bloch is from Kansas City and says his great-great grandfather was one of 52 people who signed a letter that encouraged Lincoln to visit Leavenworth. This is where the presidential candidate gave his first campaign speech.
"My Best Friend, Abe Lincoln" is available at several Kansas City bookstores, but can also be found on amazon.com and mybestfriendabelincoln.com.