Thomas Jefferson, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everythingby Maira Kalman (Author, Illustrator)
We all know Thomas Jefferson for his writing of the Declaration of Independence. But who knew that there was so much more to know about him. In “Thomas Jefferson, Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Everything”, award winning author and illustrator, Maria Kalman portrays Thomas Jefferson, as a linguist, scientist, mathematician and architect!
The book opens to a bright, vibrant colorful illustration showing “red-haired” Thomas Jefferson with a book looking out at the plantations where he was born, Virginia. Thomas was well known as the third president of the United States. But he really was a scholar, a person who was curious and wanted to learn about everything!
Thomas Jefferson loved to read and he read about everything. He read about shoes, bees, cheese , history, science and so much more. “I cannot live without books” was his motto. He was passionate about building his home, a place he imagined would allow light and air to flow through. A home surrounded by green pastures, various flora and fauna. He went on to build his home in Virigina and called it Monticello.
Over the next few pages, we discover the many things that he was passionate about. Author Maria Kalman gives us a glimpse of into Jefferson’s daily life. How he loved collecting Native American art and made his house a museum showcasing things that he loved. How his vegetable garden was his pride and a place to be happy. And how he would make time for music and practiced almost 3 hours a day.
Following this “sneek peak”, Maria then introduces Thomas Jefferson as a president and his accomplishments in the office.
What I was more intrigued about was how Maria handled the topics of slavery and his relationship with Sally Hemings. This is a picture book clearly aimed at a younger audience, ages 5+. Considering the age group, Maria does a fantastic job in introducing the idea of slavery and her thoughts behind what Thomas Jefferson felt.
She also introduces Sally Hemings as a beautiful lady “with whom Jefferson had children with”. When I read this out with daughter, I didn’t get a whole lot of questions. The later part describes “To hide your background is a very sad thing”.. Maria describes how many people had to pretend to be someone with lighter skin. This part evoked a lot of emotion and conversation starters for us.
Our favorite part was the last page. The book ends with a note “If you want to understand this country and its people and what it means to be optimistic and complex and tragic and wrong and courageous, you need to go to Monticello..maybe you will lie down and thing about “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything”.
A brilliant introduction to the iconic Thomas Jefferson.