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by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-545-22268-6
Publisher: Scholastic

A graceful and good-humored account introduces the very human sides of the disparate duo who came together in the Continental Congress to give birth to American independence in an extraordinary achievement in 1774-1776.

Kerley makes the essential points about Jefferson and Adams: Though different from birth—humble roots for athletic John, an aristocratic upbringing for intellectual Tom—both were committed to the American colonies. Light-hearted, kinetic illustrations emphasize their dissimilar styles, with Adams’ love of a good verbal argument and Jefferson’s devotion to the pen almost comically contrasting. A predominance of blue, red, white and gold sets off cameo-style portraits mixed with cartoon drawings to strike just the right notes. Use of a generous trim size and a classically styled typeface with enlarged, bolded phrases recalls the emphatic design in the printing of revolutionary broadsides. Jefferson’s slave ownership is acknowledged in several places: His efforts to include a clause condemning slavery in his declaration is mentioned; in one illustration, John wheels a barrow of fertilizer at his Braintree farm, and Tom sits thinking astride his horse at Monticello while black men in slave clothing labor in the background. A densely packed author’s note tells the rest of the story about Adams and Jefferson—that their friendship had a gap of 11 years, but their July 4th, 1826 deaths were within hours of each other, each with the other in mind.

Humorous, respectful and affectionate: a solid invitation to learn more. (author’s note, facsimile of Declaration, quotation source notes) (Informational picture book. 9-12)