Tag Archive: Revolutionary War

thomas jefferson

Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman

The author of Looking at Lincoln takes on Thomas Jefferson in her newest picture book biography.  The focus in this biography is on the wide range of Jefferson’s interests and how he truly was a Renaissance man.  Monticello, the house Jefferson designed and built, serves as a fine background to his interests since the home itself was ever changing and also housed many of his interests as well.  The book looks at fascinating small details like the design of Jefferson’s bed, the extensive vegetable gardens, and his hours spent practicing music.  After fully exploring Jefferson personally, the book turns to the Declaration of Independence and Jefferson becoming the third President of the United States.  Then the book also explores the fact that Jefferson had slaves and fathered children with one of them, Sally Henning.  This is a complex and thorough look at a man who was brilliant in so many ways but troubled as well.

Kalman writes biographies with her own opinions right on the page.  So when she addresses the slave issue, she speaks of “our hearts are broken” and then speaks to how tragic it is that Jefferson’s children who could pass as white had to hide who they really were.  This adds a personality to the book, making it far richer than simple facts would.  It will assure young readers that it is good for them to have opinions about history and to express them too.

As always, it is Kalman’s art that sets this book apart.  Her illustrations range from more serious portraits of the historical figures to eye-popping bright colors in the vegetable gardens where paths are pink next to the bright green of the grass.  It is all entirely rich and joyful.

Another dynamic and unique biography from Kalman, this book belongs in every public library serving children.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.

henry and the cannons

Henry and the Cannons: An Extraordinary True Story of the American Revolution by Don Brown

The trend for great children’s historical biographies in picture book format continue this year.  This picture book tells the story of Henry Knox.   It is the winter of 1775 and the Americans need cannons to take back Boston from the British.  Knox takes the challenge of moving 59 cannons over 225 miles across Massachusetts in the dead of winter.  It took boats, oxen and plenty of determination and innovation to get those cannons across the state.  The journey and amazing achievement is told here in a way that will entice children to learn more stories about the American Revolution.

Brown’s writing is solid throughout the book.  He carefully sets the scene, clearly explaining how unbalanced the war was with Revolutionaries vs. the world’s best soldiers.  Add to that the power of cannons, and there was clearly no hope for victory.  After that the book turns more towards adventure and peril, making for a read that must be finished.  From the impossible mission to each and every mishap, readers will be rooting for Knox.

The illustrations serve to underline the stark winter and the heaviness of the cannons.  Men and oxen strain to move the 120,000 pounds of cannon.  Snow flies, the boats seem more like twigs next to the metal, and the crossing of an iced-over river brings drama and danger. 

Strong and noteworthy, this picture book nonfiction title has history and also plenty of action and adventure.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.


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