Book Review: Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin

Lincoln's Grave RobbersLincoln’s Grave Robbers
Steve Sheinkin
Scholastic Press, January 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-40572-0

As Mr. Sheinkin has just received the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award Winner, 2013 for his, Bomb: The Race to Build—And Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, I fully expected to enjoy his account of criminals’ complications that lead to an attempt to steal Lincoln’s body.  I was not disappointed.

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers is a non-fiction, historical book perfectly suited to Middle Schoolers.  It is not; however, about robbing Lincoln’s grave.  It is about counterfeiting.   I admit, at a blush, I was skeptical.  Do today’s children even comprehend paper currency?  I quickly realized—it doesn’t matter.

Mr. Sheinkin did an outstanding job of “explaining” the counterfeiters’ process.  He covered the importance of the master engraver, the tricks of the trade and how the “coneys” became wealthy using this scheme. We better understand the necessity of a meticulous engraver, as we learn what lengths the “coneys” will go to free revered engraver, Benjamin Boyd, from prison.  When bribery doesn’t work, holding a body for ransom seems like the next best thing.  Enter the plan to steal Lincoln’s body.  Oddly, this was not the first attempt to do so.

Now, the behind-the-scenes look of the planning needed to carry out this heist.   The whole picture.  Not only does the reader follow the criminals’ plan, the Secret Service’s trap to foil the body snatching and put away “coneys” that have eluded them for years, is included.  One blunder and we are reminded that even the best-laid plan can fail.

This small book is packed with historical facts and accounts.  Mr. Sheinkin imparted this wisdom masterfully.  It didn’t even feel like I was learning!  I love, love, love that this book includes a Cast of Characters listing with micro-bios at the front and the Glossary of Phrases at the end.  While I do believe that this book will often be read for pleasure; I see the potential for it to become an asset in certain school classes.  It is my hope that many young folks will be reading about these “coneys” and their quirky ideas.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2013.