More than anything, Thomas Jefferson wished to be remembered for the Declaration of Independence, the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and the founding of the University of Virginia—this book muddies those waters.
Miller offers a thorough and methodical overview of Jefferson’s life and political career, from his early years, college at William and Mary, and on to a life that parallels all of the major events of the emerging nation—the Continental Congress, the American Revolution, Republican and Federalist debates, two terms as president, the Lewis and Clark expedition and the various ways Jefferson remained committed to his nation even in retirement. The presentation is especially forthright about Jefferson’s ownership of slaves and his fathering of children with Sally Hemings. However, the flaw in this volume, and the For Kids series as a whole, is how the discussion of serious historical issues such as the Alien and Sedition Acts, judicial review and the creation of a national bank is undermined by silly “interactive” activities—making fresh grape juice, baking macaroni and cheese and gathering a leaf collection. One page has a solid discussion of Virginia planters who “enjoyed comfortable lives on the labor of slaves,” while the opposite page encourages readers to play a board game called “The Royal Game of the Goose.”
Still, the volume offers the chance to delve into Jefferson’s life and be inspired by the range of his interests. (acknowledgments, timeline, places to visit, websites, bibliography) (Biography. 9 & up)