Mr. Lincoln's Way / by Patricia Polacco.
Polacco, P. (2001). Mr. Lincoln’s way. New York, NY: Philomel Books.
Everyone thought Mr. Lincoln was the coolest principal ever, except for “mean Gene” the school bully. “Mean Gene” was always in trouble for being mean to the other kids and rude to the teachers. Mr. Lincoln thought and thought of a way to get through to him. One day, Mr. Lincoln saw Eugene “Mean Gene” looking at the birds in the school’s atrium. Mr. Lincoln asked Eugene about birds and Eugene said his grandpa taught him. Eugene helped get all the right plants into the atrium so more birds would come and was very excited to see the result. Eugene has stopped being mean until one day in the lunch line when he was bullying two kids from Mexico. He told Mr. Lincoln it was because he got in trouble for being late coming home after helping Mr. Lincoln with the birds in the atrium. Mr. Lincoln asked Eugene how he could love all the different kinds and colors of birds but hurt other people because they were different colors. Eugene began to understand that differences aren’t bad.
Mr. Lincoln shows that all children can be reached if you take the time to figure out what makes them tick. Eugene’s love for birds and the school atrium gave Mr. Lincoln the right combination for how to reach and teach Eugene about loving the differences in people just like the birds. By taking time with Eugene, Mr. Lincoln also showed him that he was important also. When Eugene leads the ducks out of the atrium and through the school to the pond at the end of the book, you see how much he has changed due to the influence of a caring principal.
Library Use Suggestions
Discussion about ways you can show kindness to other people.
Felt board of the school – students can help show the path of the books from out of the atrium all the way to the pond by placing felt ducks on the map.
A "cool" principal helps a bully become a model citizen and conquer his racismÂ by capitalizing on the boy's interest in birds. Although the illustrations are engaging, the story of the bully's transformation is both sanctimonious and unconvincing. Eugene is too self-aware for his age, and Mr. Lincoln is too flawless to be interesting.
(2001, January 1). [Review of Mr. Lincoln’s Way]. Horn Book Guide. Retrieved from http://bookverdict.com/details.xqy?uri=hbg/14211.xml In her many books, Polacco has dealt sensitively with a broad spectrum of circumstances and issues. Here she tackles both intolerance and bullying. Mr. Lincoln is the "coolest" principal: he is Santa at Christmas, lights the menorah at Chanukah, and wears a dashiki for Kwanza and a burnoose for Ramadan. The author chronicles his attempt to reclaim "Mean Gene," a child who sasses his teachers, picks on other children, and makes ethnic slurs. "He's not a bad boy, really, ' Mr. Lincoln said. Only troubled.'" However, the distinction is not clarified. When the principal discovers that the boy is fond of birds, he capitalizes on this interest. He involves him in attracting the creatures to the school atrium while at the same time showing him that just as the differences in the birds render them beautiful, so do the differences in people. While the theme is an important and timely one, Polacco has allowed her message to overwhelm both plot and character development. The story emerges as didactic, laden with heavy-handed metaphor, and too simplistic a solution to a deep-rooted problem. The book may be useful to schools in need of a springboard for discussion of the topic and is graced with impressive watercolors, but it is not up to the author's usual literary standards