We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2017 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.
This is the second of a two-part series featuring American Presidents who happened to love books. Last week, I shared about Abe Lincoln’s bookish story.
This week, we have Thomas Jefferson. Perfect for our #metareading theme.
Thomas Jefferson Builds A Library
Written by: Barb Rosenstock Illustrated by: John O’Brien
Published by: Calkins Creek, 2013
ISBN-10: 1590789326 (ISBN13: 9781590789322)
Borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.
Unlike last week’s PBB on Abe Lincoln, this one traced Thomas Jefferson’s life story from childhood and tied the narrative firmly to his love of books and his eventually becoming a book collector.
I think what made this book work really well for me were the little inserts that included specific facts about Jefferson’s life, and actual quotes that are attributed to him (see image above) – it was kind of like reading little books within this bigger book, that is all about the love of books – talk about #MetaReading in its fullest glory.
He also has his own system of organizing his books – and no, they are not according to colour or theme or author – but according to size apparently. What was heartbreaking, though, was how his first library was destroyed in a fire, as can be seen in the little insert – upper left corner in the image above.
What truly resonated with me, though, was how he would prioritize the purchasing of books when he traveled. He would visit libraries and purchase books written in that country’s language. While it is true that his privileged way of life permitted him to do this – it is still noteworthy how he valued this enough that he put this above any other thing that he could have spent his money on. Clearly, he loved books, and was a veritable book hunter as well – so much so that his collection was eventually purchased by the Library of Congress when the British soldiers invaded Washington and set fire to the library in 1814.
While there is a distinct dissonance and incongruity between Jefferson’s supposedly being a progressive and the fact that he was a slaveholder, this was tackled with a degree of candor in the Author’s Note – along with a weblink to compelling stories of some African American families. Jefferson, apparently, owned over six hundred individuals throughout his life:
His slaves’ labor allowed Thomas Jefferson the time and money to pursue his scientific interests, his book collecting, and his political career.
More than anything, I feel that this book would, no doubt, generate a great deal of discussion among bright young students, especially when facilitated by a thoughtful teacher who would use the critical multicultural analysis framework in digging deeper into this narrative.