Book review: With Malice Toward One, a historical graphic novel for kids

Disclaimer:  I received a free download of  Mike Person's graphic novel With Malice Toward One in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my son's and my own.

Last Tuesday was the 150th anniversary of  the assassination of President Lincoln. I was talking to my 5th grader about this event and found that he only knew the very basics: that the president was shot while at the theater by the actor John Wilkes Booth. 

I hope my son's upcoming middle school program will at some point focus more intently on American history. In the meantime, I gave him  my online copy of Mike Person's With Malice Toward One. At first, he wasn't too happy with me ("Ugh. Now my Mom is giving me homework!"), until I showed him the front and back of the book. The cover didn't really do anything for me, but he thought the red devil looked "cool". He also liked the dramatic text on the back page, especially the last sentence, and told me "This might not be so bad."

While this book says it is a graphic novel, it is more than that. The layout is a bit different. The story starts as text but then every other page is an abbreviated illustrated recap. This seems like an effective way to draw in both early readers and those who are interested in more details. 

My son loves to read, both regular books and manga (Japanese comics). He thought WMTO was a great mix of comics and text. The illustration side caught his attention and "kept things moving" while the text pages "went deeper into the story and made it better." He wondered why most school books didn't use this approach and said it would be really helpful in the classroom. Since kids in his class read at different paces, he said the style would appeal to those who like to read as well as those who don't. He also felt that some students who might get bored with just a textbook would be more likely to keep reading because the colorful pictures make it easier to imagine what is going on. 

We were both impressed with how much information is shared in  WMTO. I was familiar with the details from books I'd read years ago (as an adult, not in school) but enjoyed refreshing my memory. We had a great time discussing the book. We both agreed that this would be good source for schools to teach from; I thought it best for students from 5th - 7th grade. He suggested 4th - 9th, and again wondered why his school didn't have more books like this and why they haven't yet taught more about the assassination of President Lincoln. We both also hope that the author has more historical graphic novels in the works, My son's suggested topics include Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and anything about the American Civil War or American Revolutionary War (Right now he is reading Sophia's War by Avi and had to draw a few chapters of it in comic book form for a class assignment.)

I would definitely recommend this book to teachers as well as parents who homeschool and are looking for a book that would interests a range of ages. I would also suggest it to kids who want to know more about American history, as well as adults who are looking to have  an engaging conversation their children.

With Malice Toward One is available in paperback from several online retailers. Click here to find it on Amazon. 


  1. Yes- unfortunately, in elementary, hardly ANY history or social studies of any kind is taught (at least in the Hillsborough public school sector). However, when they get to middle school, 6th grade's focus is ancient world history, 7th is Civics, and 8th is US history, so he should get a chance to learn a lot more, fortunately. Exposing him to as much as you can will benefit him, no doubt!

  2. The Booth family was as well known as any superstar family of actors these days. John’s father, Shakespearian actor Junius Booth (best known for his portrayal of Brutus) was perhaps the most celebrated of mid-Victorian American actors. Interestingly, the Booths were so well regarded that even with John being involved in assassination plot (and the only successful one), it didn’t keep the public from the fond regard of the Booth family. Amazingly Edwin, John’s brother appeared on the front cover of Harpers Weekly on 13 January 1866 just as if nothing had happened. Apparently the evil of John’s deed didn’t reflect on the rest of the family as much as would be expected. Additionally, the controversy over the assassinating(s) and the subsequent possible escape of John, has kept the subject alive in fact and fiction.

    I agree that kids need not only to read, but also to love to read. This book sounds like something to introduce to younger readers. I’m not going to rant about the decay of our public school system, the chorus is loud enough. Thanks for an introduction to this new book, I’m sure that it will not only inspire kids to read but to explore history at greater depth.