Cover image for Praying to A.L.
Praying to A.L.
Caseley, Judith.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Greenwillow Books, 2000.
Physical Description:
ix, 181 pages ; 24 cm
Grieving for her beloved father who recently died, thirteen-year-old Sierra remembers special moments in their lives, including their interest in the life of Abraham Lincoln.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.6 7.0 41627.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



People don't just up and die in the middle of the kitchen ... in the middle of lunch ... in the middle of their lives, do they? Sierra's father does, and suddenly life is blurred and unreal. Her five-year-old brother seems more concerned about what he's having for breakfast, and though Mama's trying hard, she's lost in her own sorrow. No amount of sympathy from Aunt Rose, Tia Claudia, or the. rest of Sierra's well-meaning Jewish Cuban extended family can bring the focus back.

But there is the junk-shop portrait of Abraham Lincoln--Sierra's historical idol--that had been one of Papa's "finds." With A. L.'s kind eyes and craggy, melancholy face staring out from the frame, it's as if he is Sierra's confidant, listening to what she longs to say so she can let Papa go ... and let her family back in.

Books for the Teen Age 2001 (NYPL)
Children's Books 2000-NY Public Lib.

Author Notes

Judith Caseley was born in the small town of Winfield, New Jersey, a converted army development. She went to Syracuse University and majored in English, but felt she never would get all of the reading done because she worked in the cafeteria. I switched into art in my sophomore year. During her four years in college, she never took a single course in illustration or writing. Ten years later, from greeting cards to gallery work, she became an author and illustrator of children's books. She worked part-time as a receptionist for years until she could support herself. Much of Judith's work is semi-autobiographical. She takes small events from her life or from the lives of her children, and fictionalize them. "Field Day Friday" was based on her son Michael's field day, when his new sneaker fell off in the middle of the race. Judith wrote "Praying to A.L." while my father was dying of Alzheimer's Disease. It is a book that is close to her heart. It deals with loss, death, and rebirth.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-8. Twelve-year-old Sierra is devastated when her beloved father suddenly dies. The Jewish (father's side) and Cuban (mother's side) relatives rally to mourn, celebrate his spirit, and try to go on. Sierra creates a father substitute in the portrait of Abraham Lincoln her father had given her; she confides in "A.L.," as she calls him, and gradually begins to open up to her family and friends. When Sierra plays Mary Lincoln in a school play, the experience is cathartic, and she is finally able to express her grief. There is much to recommend here: clever, realistic dialogue; a description of grief in all its stages; a slowly blossoming romance between Sierra and her close friend, Eli; and best of all, a fond and realistic portrayal of a bicultural family that celebrates both cultures while acknowledging the friction that sometimes arises. Spanish phrases scattered throughout are translated the first time they appear, and they work well in context. --Debbie Carton

Publisher's Weekly Review

Caseley's (Starring Dorothy Kane) moving if uneven novel opens as a credibly limned, diverse group of relativesÄJewish on her father's side and Cuban on her mother'sÄgathers to mourn the death of Sierra Goodman's father. Missing him greatly, the 13-year-old finds solace in the portrait of Abraham Lincoln that her father had hung on her bedroom wall ("Lincoln's melancholy expression soothed her, as if his etched lines of pain knew her sorrow") and, in a posthumous gift from her father, a collection of Lincoln's speeches and writings. She finds parallels between Lincoln's personality and that of her father, and between her personal life and that of "A.L." When her class is assigned to write and perform a play, Sierra suggests that they base it on Lincoln's life. As Sierra and Eli, her estranged best friend, research their roles (Mary Todd Lincoln and her husband, respectively), Caseley stretches her theme almost to the snapping point. In the finale of the play performance, depicting Lincoln's death, Sierra throws herself onto Eli and they both begin sobbing, she feeling the loss of her father and he mourning his father's descent into alcoholism ("They were a duet of tears, converging grief, his body shuddering beneath her own"). On the other hand, the shadow of Sierra's father feels real and poignant throughout, and the author follows up her melodramatic catharsis with an affecting, hopeful ending that may well offer comfort to youngsters who have experienced a similar loss. Ages 10-up. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-After 13-year-old Sierra's father dies, she finds herself withdrawing from friends and family. Her mother is preoccupied with her own grief and her little brother acts like a spoiled brat. Even good friends do not know how to talk to her, and her close-knit, extended Jewish-Cuban family provides little comfort. Sierra copes with her sorrow by having imaginary conversations with the photo of Abraham Lincoln that hangs on her wall. When her uncle brings her a book of Lincoln's speeches and letters that her father had asked him to buy for her before he died, the connection grows even stronger. Sierra, in response to a school assignment, suggests a play about the life of Lincoln and her teacher assigns her the part of his wife. In performing the assassination scene, the girl is finally able to cry for her father. The unusual way she grieves gives structure to the nicely crafted novel. Serious, without being overly sentimental, Caseley's novel shows that grief takes many forms, but that the passage of time and the support of family and friends do eventually make the situation better.-Janet Hilbun, formerly at Sam Houston Middle School, Garland, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.