Book Review: Thomas Jefferson

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

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Thomas Jefferson: Voice of Independence

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Yet another great American history book by Cheryl Harness, Thomas Jefferson is a good basic biography of America's third president that also provides some enlightening and not-always-talked-about details of the life of the author of the Declaration of Independence.

Illustrated by Harness as well and published by National Geographic, this book is a wonderful introduction or brush-up on the life and times of Jefferson. All of the relevant details are here—from his childhood learning prowess to his law days to his lawmaker days through his White House days and beyond. But Harness, being the historical detective and excellent writer that she is, manages to include some details that even those familiar with Jefferson's story might not find familiar. One is his love of music. More than once, the reader is reminded that young Thomas kept his love of music throughout his life. The author includes a sweet mention of Thomas playing his fiddle while his wife, Martha, plays her harpsichord. The other "Did You Know?" fact is that while he was president, Thomas Jefferson kept a pet mockingbird in his offices.

The illustrations are top-notch as well. Familiar maps and portraits dot the pages, but Harness outdoes herself a map of the battles of the Revolutionary War and floorplans of Monticello and his presidential offices. Better than all, however, is a full-blown map of the journeys of Lewis & Clark, complete with an illustration of Jefferson and William Clark on their hands and knees, poring over the newly made map that Clark has brought back from his journeys through the Louisiana Territory.

The book is written in simple enough language that even elementary school students should be able to follow along, yet contains some wonderful turns of phrase that delight the more sophisticated reader. The requisite timeline at the back of the book is a huge help as well, putting Jefferson's life's events in greater context, not only in the history of American but also elsewhere in the world.

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