Thomas Jefferson was feeling stung. The Continental Congress was demanding that he rewrite sections of his Declaration of Independence. Replace this, cut that, the delegates urged. Smoldering, Jefferson took a seat: ""I thought my words were perfect just the way they were,"" he muttered. Hoping to soothe his friend, Ben Franklin quietly told him the parable of the hatmaker, who had designed a sign for his shop: ""John Thompson, Hatmaker, Fashionable Hats Sold Inside for Ready Money."" After his wife, Hannah, suggests one phrase be deleted, Thompson shows his revised design to others, each of whom has another cut to suggest. Thompson appears at the signmaker's shop with a blank piece of paper. Puzzled, the signmaker suggests: ""John Thompson, Hatmaker, Fashionable Hats Sold Inside for Ready Money."" ""So you see, Tom,"" concluded Ben. ""No matter what you write, or how well you write it, if the public is going to read it, you can be sure they will want to change it."" Grander than the story itself is its basis in real events, and Fleming (Gabriella's Song, 1997, etc.) fleshes out the particulars in an excellent author's note. Adding considerably to the charm of the book are Parker's ink-and-watercolor illustrations, with a sketched, fleeting quality that seems to summon the events from history and renders them with immediacy.