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) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)