Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Be Vigilant For Truth

There are those placed in any given situation with others who will observe more.  They will notice the smallest of details about the natural world, objects and the mannerisms of people.  In assessing all this information, they can answer questions, draw conclusions and make predictions.

Able to hone these skills with persistence and practice, they may choose to become scientists, veterinarians, sociologists or officers in law enforcement.  The Eye That Never Sleeps: How Detective Pinkerton Saved President Lincoln (Abrams Books For Young Readers, November 6, 2018) written by Marissa Moss with illustrations by Jeremy Holmes presents highlights of a remarkable life.  It focuses on one episode which most likely changed the course of history.

Allan Pinkerton wasn't any of those things.  Born in 1819, he grew up in one of the worst slums in Scotland. But he had sharp eyes, a quick mind, and a hunger for justice.

At an early age he started to devote his life to rights for workers.  He became a wanted man by the British government.  In fact, on his wedding day, he and his new bride fled the country, hidden on a vessel bound for the United States of America.  Upon their arrival in Chicago, he started a cooperage, barrel making, business.  It was highly successful.

In 1847 finding himself in need of lumber, Allan went to an island in the river hoping to get wood.  He noticed the remains of a recent fire.  By going back night after night, he discovered men making small items in the fire.  Alerting the authorities, they broke up a coin counterfeiting ring.  He did the same thing with another group of counterfeiters in another town.  The Chicago Police Department made Allan Pinkerton their first full-time detective.

Within a year, Pinkerton left to start his own agency.  Increasing the business's abilities meant hiring more agents.  They were all taught using the Pinkerton Method and Manual.  In short order their motto "We Never Sleep" earned them the honor of the best agency in the nation.  This success lead to Pinkerton being hired to protect the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad from harm by those wishing to secede from the union.  In this capacity Pinkerton uncovered rumors of a plot to assassinate newly elected President Lincoln.

Sending in his best people, including the first woman detective, Kate Warne, Pinkerton garnered specific goosebumps-inducing details of the scheme and warned President Lincoln. The clever plan Pinkerton devised to thwart this evil was the stuff of page-turning, thrilling intrigue.  Duly impressed with the work of Allan Pinkerton, President Lincoln created a special team to locate spies for the South and to infiltrate the South as spies.  

Immediately we are enthralled with this man's life by the way author Marissa Moss incorporates facts in this fascinating narrative.  We find ourselves cheering for a person with Pinkerton's powerful characteristics and his actions that support these beliefs.  Marissa Moss's precise and thorough research is apparent in the inclusion of specific details and quotes.  Even though you know the outcome of events, you find yourself hardly daring to breathe.  Here is a passage.

Not trusting the mail or telegraph wires, Pinkerton sent an agent, Kate Warne, to set up an appointment so he could meet with Lincoln, then followed her to Philadelphia, the next city on the president's route.  That night, he pushed his way through the excited crowds in the lobby and halls of the Continental Hotel.  People were even gathered right outside Lincoln's door! This city was friendly to the president-elect.  Here the hordes of people weren't a threat.  What would it be like, though, with angry mobs in Baltimore, a city with strong southern sympathies?

The complementary color palette and illustrative style on the opened and matching dust jacket and book case, capture our attention immediately.  The scratchboard technique devised by illustrator Jeremy Holmes here (and throughout the book) is indicative of a historical piece.  The meticulous details in clothing and architecture take us back in time.  

To the left, on the back, a poster with uneven and wrinkled edges is placed on a wooden wall.  It contains the opening statement with several other lines asking readers to discover how this man became

America's greatest detective.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a patterned diamond design in two shades of purple with what appears to be ink blots.  On the title page the eye, the logo for the agency, is centered with text above and below it.  Scroll work frames the words.

With each page turn Jeremy Holmes creates a series of wordless, successive panels in a variety of sizes or large double page pictures with elements encroaching on the text panel.  This visual storytelling has you examining every single image.  Repeatedly the eye(s) of Pinkerton create a beam of light based on his current work.  

The point of view portrayed in the pictures shifts to coincide with the narrative; bringing us close to Pinkerton or giving us a broader perspective in a particular location.  When speaking of the plot to assassinate the president elect three illustration match the text; a close-up of a hand clutching a red piece of paper, President Lincoln and Mrs. Lincoln driving through groups of people in a horse drawn and open carriage and a large picture of the president's stovepipe hat riddled with bullet holes and script reading

The Deed Is Done.

The use of cross-sections, maps, newspaper headlines, typography, and a Morse telegraph alphabet is excellent.  Speech bubbles add to the authenticity and personal aspects.  A final vertical double-page picture highlights a moment of triumph.  

One of my many favorite illustrations is when Jeremy Holmes zooms in on Pinkerton's face.  His nose centers in the gutter with his face extending on either side.  Pouring from both of his ears are bits and pieces of conversations centering on the plot.  Along the bottom of the page and in front of Pinkerton's beard is an engine, coal car and passenger car of the B & O Railroad.  In the lower left-hand and right-hand corners are squares of text framed in tiny lines.

We become willing and avid time travelers when reading The Eye That Never Sleeps: How Detective Pinkerton Saved President Lincoln written by Marissa Moss with illustrations by Jeremy Holmes.  The word cliff-hanger repeatedly comes to mind with this winning blend of words and illustrations.  A time line, artist's note, author's note, endnotes, bibliography and index add to the excellence of this work.  I highly recommend this for your personal and professional collections.  (Fans of this book will enjoy reading The Detective's Assistant by Kate Hannigan.)

To learn more about Marissa Moss and Jeremy Holmes and their other work, visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Marissa Moss maintains an account on Twitter.  Both Marissa and Jeremy have Instagram accounts.  Marissa is interviewed by Deborah Kalb about this title.  Jeremy visits Let's Talk Picture Books to chat about this book.  You are going to love all the artwork featured.

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to discover the other titles listed this week by participants in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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