Synopses & Reviews
Renowned artist Maira Kalman sheds light on the fascinating life and interests of the Renaissance man who was our third president.
Thomas Jefferson is perhaps best known for writing the Declaration of Independencebut theres so much more to discover. This energetic man was interested in everything. He played violin, spoke seven languages and was a scientist, naturalist, botanist, mathematician and architect. He designed his magnificent home, Monticello, which is full of objects he collected from around the world. Our first foodie, he grew over fifteen kinds of peas and advocated a mostly vegetarian diet. And oh yes, as our third president, he doubled the size of the United States and sent Lewis and Clark to explore it. He also started the Library of Congress and said, I cannot live without books.” But monumental figures can have monumental flaws, and Jefferson was no exception. Although he called slavery an abomination,” he owned about 150 slaves.
As she did in Looking at Lincoln, Maira Kalman shares a presidents remarkable, complicated life with young readers, making history come alive with her captivating text and stunning illustrations.
"Kalman turns her gaze on America's third president, without the unconditional adoration she brought to Looking at Lincoln. Jefferson was 'a terrible speaker but a great writer,' Kalman explains, lingering on his Declaration of Independence's notions of equality: 'It would be many years until most Americans were treated equally but it was the ideal on which America was founded.' Initially, Kalman focuses on Jefferson's genius for collecting, architecture, and gardening, but halfway through, she reveals, 'The man who said of slavery 'This abomination must end'' was the owner of about 150 slaves. The monumental man had monumental flaws.... What did they do? Everything.' She pictures 'the beautiful Sally Hemings' smiling and suggests that 'some of' Jefferson and Hemings's children 'were freed and able to pass for white.' Other elephants in the room include Jefferson's antiquated attitudes toward Native Americans and land grabs. Kalman dwells in conflict and raises questions to the end, pronouncing Monticello a symbol of all that is 'optimistic and complex and tragic and wrong and courageous' about America. Includes author notes, not seen by PW. Ages 5-8. Agent: Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. (Jan.) Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Maira Kalman (www.mairakalman.com) is the author-illustrator of numerous picture books, including Looking at Lincoln, Fireboat, Next Stop Grand Central, and What Pete Ate from AZ, as well as adult hits such as And the Pursuit of Happiness and The Elements of Style Illustrated. She is also the illustrator of the Printz Honor Winning Book Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler. Her artwork has appeared on a dozen New Yorker covers, and her watches, clocks, accessories and paperweights have been featured at the Museum of Modern Art store. She lives in New York City.