Friday, February 21, 2020

Spotlight Friday - Honey The Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln 2.21.2020

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Spotlight:  Honey The Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln

Who doesn't enjoy a good dog story?  A dog that saves the life of a kid?  Now that's going to make a really fun read aloud!

Honey The Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln
written by Shari Swanson
illustrated by Chuck Groenink
published by Katherine Tegen Books

Goodreads Book Summary:
Based on a little-known tale from Abraham Lincoln’s childhood, this charming picture book written by debut author Shari Swanson and illustrated by acclaimed artist Chuck Groenink tells a classic story of a boy, his dog, and a daring rescue.

Deeply researched and charmingly told, this is the true story of one extra-special childhood rescue—a dog named Honey.

Long before Abraham Lincoln led the nation or signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he was just a barefoot kid running around Knob Creek, Kentucky, setting animals free from traps and snatching frogs out of the jaws of snakes.

One day, young Abe found a stray dog with a broken leg and named him Honey. He had no idea that the scruffy pup would find his way into Abe’s heart, become his best friend, and—one fateful day—save his life.

My thoughts
I really enjoyed this story.  It definitely is a feel good story and one that readers of all ages will enjoy.  The digital illustrations by Chuck Groenink blend perfect colors that make you feel at home in the Kentucky wilderness.  I loved seeing the cave entrance and can just imagine a young Abe Lincoln wanting to go exploring.

When you read a story like this you automatically think this is a great historical fiction account - meaning it is based on facts but much of it is made up information.  However, much of the information in the story is based on historical information.  The author includes in the backmatter that the information is pulled from a first person account, Abe Lincoln's childhood best friend.  Austin Gollaher recounted the story to a journalist who turned the stories into a book.  I was interested in hearing more about this research.  Author Shari Swanson generously agreed to share more with readers!

- tell us more about the research process

I started with the stories Austin Gollaher told people about his time with Lincoln when they were kids growing up in Kentucky. Then I travelled twice to Kentucky to explore, research, and see as many of the places where the book is set as I could and talk to lots of Lincoln experts. Then more research, diving into as many books as I could find about Lincoln’s life, reading the Kentucky chapters closely, and looking for any and all encounters I could find between Lincoln and animals for the timeline. 

- with this being a narrative, how did you pick and choose from the factual information to keep it factual?

I wanted to focus on the rescue aspect of the story so opened with one of the more unusual rescues Lincoln performed, saving the frog from the snake. There are many to choose from—he was busy—but this was the most surprising one to me. I wanted to establish Lincoln’s kindness to animals as a theme and character trait from the get-go. From there I focused on Lincoln’s rescue of Honey, their developing relationship, and the rescue of Lincoln by Honey at the end. The dialog is taken from Austin’s account of the incidents. This may make it sound simple and straightforward, but it’s a difficult process, at least for me. Finding this narrative thread, though, was the key for me to figuring out how I wanted to tell the story. Then it was on to the details like Austin calling Lincoln “Abe,” but Nancy always calling her son “Abraham,” which of Honey’s paws was broken, where the mill was set, etc. A whole wealth of information that doesn’t make it into the text but is conveyed through the art to help bring the story to life. 

- what do you think the difference between your story, which is categorized as nonfiction, and other narratives that are based on factual information but categorized as fiction?

The lucky thing for me is there are not a lot of gaps in the research for the narrative I wanted to tell. For some stories, things may not be recorded by a primary source, and the author might have to guess as to what happened, making the story fiction, or may have to make up words to put in her character’s mouth. I didn’t have to guess here. That the story is true makes it very compelling to me. Honey is an American hero, and I’m glad I am the one who got to tell his story. 

- is there any other information about the researching or writing of the story that you would like to pass along to readers?

For kids or teachers who might want to dig deeper, I have pictures and more details, including much of what I had to leave out, on my website at

- anything additional you would like young readers of your story to know?

I hope kids love Honey as much as I do. From my early experience sharing this story with children, they realize just how important that pup was in the course of history. 

Be sure you visit Shari's website to find a curriculum guide and activity kit for the book along with additional historical resources.

More about Shari:

Shari Swanson is a debut author who has been a middle school language arts teacher as well as an appellate lawyer. She received her MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she wrote her thesis on musicality in picture books. She lives in Southern California with her husband and their dog, Honey. To learn more, and to download a free curriculum guide and activity kit, visit her website:
Twitter: @ByShariSwanson

Facebook: Shari Swanson, Author 

Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for the review copy.

I know you'll want to read this book and Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Children's Books has generously donated a book for a giveaway (US winners only).  Be sure to fill out information below and a winner will be selected on February 28th.

1 comment:

  1. It's lovely to hear of another story about President Lincoln's childhood. I'm glad it's been written. Thanks for writing, Shari, and for the interview, Michele!