A new book for young readers may wind up in more than a few Christmas stockings this year.
It was inspired by a story that Raymond Arroyo, a Fox News contributor and bestselling author, stumbled upon — and one that’s connected to a longtime American holiday tradition.
When President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary — in 1863, while in the White House — received a live turkey for the family to feast on at Christmas, their precocious eight-year-old son Tad, who was fond of animals, apparently adopted the bird as a pet.
GREATEST INVENTOR OF ALL TIME WOULD NOT HAVE SUCCEEDED WITHOUT A KEY PERSON IN HIS LIFE
He named the turkey Jack — and even taught the bird to follow behind as he hiked around the White House grounds, as Smithsonian Magazine and other sources have noted.
On Christmas Eve, Lincoln told his son that Jack’s days as a pet were coming to a close.
“Jack was sent here to be killed and eaten for this very Christmas,” the president reportedly told Tad.
The boy replied, “He’s a good turkey, and I don’t want him killed.”
The boy apparently argued that the bird had every right to live — and “the president gave in to his son, writing a reprieve for the turkey on a card and handing it to Tad,” as Smithsonian also related.
Jack the turkey remained with Tad Lincoln for another year.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY, OCT. 3, 1863, LINCOLN ISSUES POWERFUL THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION
This is the beginning of the annual White House tradition of the presidential turkey pardon each fall.
Ever since 1947, under President Harry Truman, the National Turkey Federation has donated turkeys to the president ahead of Thanksgiving. While President John F. Kennedy is believed to be the first president to spare the turkey, and while President George H. W. Bush was the first to formalize the “pardon” tradition, the entire scenario reportedly dates back to Lincoln in 1863.
“We are so used to seeing Abraham Lincoln looking depressed and sad … that we forget he would break down in laughter when playing with his boys.” — Raymond Arroyo
And it’s this story that Arroyo has used as the foundation of his new illustrated book.
Fox News Digital spoke to Arroyo about his new book, which goes on sale Tuesday, October 3.
‘Story of a father and son’
Fox News Digital: Why did you choose to write about the Lincoln family right now?
Raymond Arroyo: I stumbled upon this story after observing an annual White House Thanksgiving tradition — and I quickly realized that it was a tradition created by Tad Lincoln, President Lincoln’s youngest son.
As I explored the story, I discovered that this was not just the origin story of a great American holiday, and an ongoing national tradition, but the story of a father and son who learned mercy and forgiveness from one another.
My first book in this series was about how Thomas Edison was saved by his mother. This one is about how Abraham Lincoln was saved by his son — and they left us a holiday tradition to commemorate it.
Fox News Digital: What particularly moved you about this relationship between father and son — and why did you want to share these insights with readers this year?
RA: We are so used to seeing Abraham Lincoln looking depressed and sad, that we forget — and the historical record is clear on this — he would break down in laughter when playing with his boys or observing the mayhem they created.
The president allowed his boys to do things no children would be allowed to do now. They hitched goats in the East Room and galloped through parties, dug up the White House Rose garden — and the president would delight in it all.
Lincoln’s co-workers and staff often wondered why he indulged this little “hellion,” Tad.
What I discovered is that for Lincoln, weighed down by a shattered nation and running a losing war, his son Tad was a touchstone of joy — a reminder of the normalcy and light on the other side of the chaos he was living.
They were inseparable, particularly after the death of Lincoln’s son, Willie. There is an important lesson for parents in this: Our children, just being children, can be the greatest gift of all. For Lincoln, Tad was his lifeline.
‘Important lessons for young people’
Fox News Digital: Do you feel that American kids and students today need to learn more add be taught more about our founders and their lives — and if so, why?
RA: This is the second book in the Turnabout Tales Series. Our motto is: Challenges Faced, Decisions Made, History Turned.
Each book focuses on a great, young life at a moment of crisis.
“Our kids need to know these stories, as they are really guides for living from those who went before.” — Raymond Arroyo
What I have learned by visiting schools all over the country is that many of these historic figures are no longer part of the curriculum. But they hold such important lessons for young people and all of us.
So I decided to represent these historic figures as young people, so young readers could relate to them.
What they quickly realize it that these kids from a century or two ago are facing the same challenges they are facing today. In this case, Tad is coping with loneliness and loss — and ends up teaching his dad a lesson about mercy. Along the way, they create an enduring national holiday tradition.
It’s not only a fun romp through a moment in history, but a way to explore the origins of Thanksgiving like never before. (And you will never look at a Thanksgiving turkey the same way.) Our kids need to know these stories, as they are really guides for living from those who went before.
‘Fun and comedy wins over readers’
Fox News Digital: How is it different or unique to write for children — as opposed to writing for adults, as you’ve done throughout your career?
RA: I love writing what I call “family reads,” like the Turnabout Tales series.
But these picture books are a lot harder to write than chapter books, at least for me. You only have 19 turns of the page to tell an entire story. That’s a very small amount of space to tell a story like Tad’s — so you have to be economical with the storytelling.
But the format allows me an element of fun and comedy that I think wins over readers.
This book is very emotional. It’s moving. There are slapstick moments and heartbreaking ones and I think every reader young or old will learn a lot.
Fox News Digital: What else should readers know?
RA: This is the perfect book for the family during the holidays. It is the origin story of a great national tradition, a tradition that I consider a monument to the affection between Abraham and Tad Lincoln.
And it is also how the Lincoln family — and one child — marked the nation.
Editors’ note: Published by Zonderkiz, “The Magnificent Mischief of Tad Lincoln” by Raymond Arroyo is already a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon in the “Children’s US Presidents and First Ladies Biography” category.
For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.
Source: Fox News