NEW! THOMAS JEFFERSON BUILDS A LIBRARY  - BOOK REVIEWS

From BOOKLIST
Issue: August 1, 2013

“This attractive picture book uses Thomas Jefferson’s love of reading and collecting books as a lens through which to view the story of his life. Even as a young child, Tom reads through his father’s library, and as a young man, he collects his own. He marries, has children, and makes sure that they read, too. He uses what he has learned from books to write the Declaration of Independence, and so on through his presidency and “retirement” to 1814, when a fire destroyed the Library of Congress. The story concludes with Jefferson selling his beloved books to form the basis of the new collection there. The writing, punctuated with questions, statements, and exclamations in red ink, sketches the biographical framework and fills it in with quotes and bits of history to create an unusual portrait of the man. O’Brien’s ink drawings, enhanced by watercolor washes in subdued tones, have a quirky humor all their own. An informative author’s note rounds out this appealing introduction to Jefferson.”

From PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
Issue: July 29, 2013

“Thomas Jefferson ‘gobbled books the way a starving man eats.’ Rosenstock’s (The Camping Trip That Changed America) apt metaphor sets the tone for this jaunty picture-book biography of the third U.S. president. Following Jefferson’s birth in 1743 to his restocking of the Library of Congress in 1815, the playful narrative (“While at college, he read fifteen hours a day. Guess what he started collecting?!”) complements even more playful illustrations. O’Brien’s (Look... Look Again!) dynamic ink-and-watercolor illustrations show the redheaded leader in perpetual motion around books, exaggerating his hobby to humorous effect. Jefferson stacks tomes on his mantel in the shape of the word “books” or reads several books at once by swinging from a trapeze. Pointillist dots overlay the artwork, texturing O’Brien’s pictures with a mottled look. Readers’ eyes will dart among several scenes in each spread, the busy layout giving a sense of Jefferson’s full education driven life. Appearing on nearly every page are images of small, open books that provide further biographical facts and quotations. Author notes and a bibliography wrap up a lively peek at a literature loving political giant.”
 

From KIRKUS REVIEWS
Issue:  August 15, 2013

“This unusual picture-book biography fosters a new understanding of Thomas Jefferson’s life as viewed through his love of books and its impact on our burgeoning nation.
The opening quote from Jefferson sets the tone: ‘I cannot live without books.’ The narrative replicates the rhythm of a conversation as it provides numerous examples of his love of books. Clever spreads combine expansive full-bleed images and individual, framed pen-and-ink–and-watercolor illustrations, plus vignettes amplifying points made in the text. Throughout, fact boxes shaped like open books scattered across the pages supply additional details. A scholar from childhood, Jefferson devoured his father’s library and then, at school, learned to read in several languages. He cultivated personal libraries covering many subjects while living at his parents’ plantation and again at Monticello. Ultimately, this examination highlights Jefferson’s role in ensuring that the Library of Congress held a viable collection: first as president, when he supported the Library of Congress, and later, when the collection was burned during the War of 1812, by offering his books to them. The piece closes on the fascinating note that the Library of Congress owns more than 155 million items and adds around 11,500 each day. An author’s note provides further information, including a discussion of Jefferson as slaveholder.
Sure to be enjoyed, this is an engaging study of one of our Founding Father’s great legacies. (selected bibliography, source notes)”
 

From SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
Issue: August 2013

“It is no small feat to entertain children in a book about loving books (an increasingly crowded shelf), but this duo succeeds admirably through well-chosen facts, staggering statistics, an interactive text, and humor. Readers glimpse Jefferson’s childhood, adolescence, fatherhood, and presidency through his obsession with reading. There is levity and energy in O’Brien’s ink and watercolor scenes. Jefferson’s horse has a book-shaped saddle; young Tom fiddles while reading the music from a book mounted to the bridle. There is also sadness, when Jefferson reads to his wife on her deathbed. The full-spread compositions are supplemented by insets shaped like open books that contain quotes by or about Jefferson and his times or interests. In one, a slave remembers that his master might have 20 books surrounding him on the floor. Another describes his revolving bookstand holding five volumes, so he “never needed to stop writing to read or stop reading to write.” Rosenstock details the man’s substantial and ongoing involvement in developing and contributing to the national library. The final scene shows Jefferson opening a large book portraying modern and Colonial visitors mingling at the Library of Congress; a minor disappointment is that O’Brien drew generic bookcases instead of the splendid reading room. An author’s note adds more information, including context for the fact that the author of the Declaration of Independence owned about 600 enslaved individuals throughout his life. This is a unique portrayal of the life and passions of the third president.”
 

 

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