Brief Description: Picture book biography of Allan Pinkerton, the first detective at the Chicago Police Department, featuring an episode of his preventing an early assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln during his inaugural train ride from Springfield, IL to Washington DC.
Historical Era: 19th Century
Date Range: 1819-1884 (lifespan)
Original Publication: 2018
Suitable for Grades: 2-4th
Target Audience: Picture Book
This adorably illustrated book is part biography of Allan Pinkerton, famous for founding the Pinkerton Agency, and part detective story about Pinkerton’s discovery of an assassination plot against newly elected President Abraham Lincoln during his inaugural train journey from Springfield, Illinois to Washington DC. We quickly learn of Pinkerton’s early life in Scotland, how and why he fled with his young bride to America to start a cooperage, and how he got his start as the first detective with the Chicago police force.
The featured train ride occurs when the railroad company hires Pinkerton to protect Abraham Lincoln from rebel secessionists. Because Lincoln planned to give speeches at each “whistle stop” (this was a time before easy travel and communication) Pinkerton’s job is especially difficult. Agents from the Pinkerton firm infiltrate a group of plotters in Baltimore, and Pinkerton warns the President himself. We journey along with Lincoln, Pinkerton, and Kate Warne (the first woman detective) as they avoid detection using various delightful disguises and manage to safely deliver Lincoln to Washington.
Especially charming is illustrator Jeremy Holmes’ portrayal of Pinkerton in which he appears to be wearing something like yellow sunglasses, which give him amazing powers of observation. In many faux woodcut pictures, a yellow beam projects from Pinkerton’s eyes to spotlight a clue or a special feature that draws the young reader’s attention. One illustration in the book features a Morse code telegram and key and the text explains some code words that Pinkerton used. Astute readers may have fun translating the dots and dashes into the secret message. Back matter includes a detailed time line of Pinkerton’s life, author’s and artist’s notes, a bibliography of source material, and an index.