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Thomas Jefferson: A Day at Monticello Hardcover – February 4, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—After finishing this beautifully illustrated book, also stocked with abundant photographs of artifacts housed at Monticello, readers will be left more curious than ever about the life and accomplishments of Thomas Jefferson. This is not to say that the book does not cover many of the most interesting aspects of his life and his idiosyncrasies; indeed, it certainly does that. Instead, it tells just enough about Jefferson so that anyone, young or old, might be enticed to learn even more. Readers will feel as though they are spending the day alongside him, watching his every move. Jefferson's meticulous habits, such as recording the weather conditions and temperature several times a day and daily letter writing before breakfast, give young people a flavor for the kind of detail-oriented man he was. Theye get the sense that he never stopped thinking of ways to improve everyday life, whether through the inventions he was always designing or the deep intelligence he demonstrated in his approach to solving problems. By following him around Monticello for a day, children only get a brief glimpse of his role as president, but it's enough to whet anyone's appetite to seek more. Though the author may have taken a few liberties in representing casual conversations Jefferson might have had with other people in his daily life, the facts about his life are well documented. This would be a splendid addition to any study of the early 1800s in the United States.—Maggie Chase, Boise State University, ID
Chew, a former curator at Monticello, invites readers to join Thomas Jefferson for a typical spring day at his home in 1813, his seventieth year. Rising at dawn, he writes letters and breakfasts with his daughter and her family, his grandson Francis, and visitors James and Dolley Madison. Next, Jefferson and 11-year-old Francis make the rounds of the plantation, discussing the ongoing work of farming, mill construction, and slavery, a system that the aging Jefferson acknowledges as evil. Later, he entertains dinner guests and reminisces about his past, before retiring to read before bed. While bits of American history are woven through the narrative, the book focuses more on Jefferson’s personal habits and interests than his public accomplishments. Although a few images are of uneven quality, the illustrations include excellent photos of sites, artifacts, and documents as well as paintings that extend the text. The lightly fictionalized, engaging narrative, which includes many conversations, is bolstered by sidebars offering additional information about topics such as Jefferson’s Weather Memorandum Book, his alcove bed, and his views on slavery. A useful complement to traditional biographies of Jefferson. Grades 3-6. --Carolyn Phelan