How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk Book Review

How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln: The Story Behind the Nation's First Female Detective by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk
Illustrations by Valentina Belloni
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Release Date: March 1, 2016

In 1856, when Kate Warne went to see Allan Pinkerton, only men were detectives. But Kate convinced Allan to hire her for his detective agency. She explained that she could worm out secrets where men could not go--in disguise as a society lady! Join Kate on her most important mission--to thwart a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln on the way to his inauguration.

Kate Warne's accomplishments as a female detective were well ahead of her time since women weren't even allowed to join the police force until 1891 and didn't work officially as detectives until 1903. Yet there must have been something about her that made Pinkerton take her on despite knowing very little about her. She claimed to be a young widow  yet there is very little evidence for this. Whoever she was, Kate proved herself over and over to her employer, although rumor has it she was the mistress to Pinkerton so one does wonder what role that played in their professional relationship. 

Although her life was rather interesting if a bit mysterious, I did feel like this book fell a bit flat for me. The illustrations, while colorful were confusing at times. Presidential hopeful Abraham Lincoln is not recognizable and I found it hard to pick him out of a group of men on a spread. Also, even though this book is a picture book and written in language that the average 4-7 year old would understand, one must have some previous information concerning Lincoln as well as some basic geography knowledge, things that the average picture book audience is still developing. This story really should have been geared towards upper elementary school students, but  there simply wasn't enough included information for that age group. In fact, I felt so confused by the story as it seemed like Kate Warner was nothing more than an advisor in this assassination plot, that I ended up looking up more information about her. Now, this could be viewed as a good thing as this book led me to learn more, but writers cannot assume that everyone will do this and so it is important that all the relevant data is presented as succinctly as possible while maintaining the integrity of the story.