It’s the summer of 1966, and sixth-grader Mina has her work cut out for her. Her overactive imagination has convinced her that because her father’s initials spell “ABE,” the Edelmans are the Lincolns reincarnated. Now she must save her family from their fate. This means making sure that she doesn’t die of bilious fever, that her dad doesn’t get assassinated, and that her mother doesn’t go crazy. Mina is unclear what bilious fever is, but frequently sprays herself with OFF!, just in case. Her father, inspired by the history of discrimination against his Jewish heritage, decides to take her, without her mother’s knowledge, to civil-rights protests in nearby Chicago where they participate in an all-night vigil and get involved in real-estate testing to prove racism in rentals. Mina’s parents grow apart, and her father forms a friendship with a fellow protester and African American, Carla. At the end, Mina is ready to let go of her notion of reincarnation and wrestles with issues of injustice and discrimination. Brandeis seamlessly intersperses serious topics with laugh-out-loud humor. Mina is a budding journalist, writing a newsletter full of Lincoln lore to promote her father’s furniture store, Honest Abe’s. Her voice is clear and unique; her view of life’s confusions is endearing and funny. The setting is perfectly captured, from Johnny Carson on television to bouffant hairdos. While the book’s humor may be the first attraction for young readers, this is also a solid addition to historical-fiction collections.
Gayle Brandeis is the author of two novels, The Book of Dead Birds, which won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change, and Self Storage, as well as a young adult novel, My Life with the Lincolns, and a writing guide, Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write. A former figure skater, she lives in Redlands, California, and has one child in college, one in high school, and one new baby.