Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Everything

Maira Kalman, Author, Maira Kalman, Illustrator
Maira Kalman. Penguin/Paulsen, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-399-24040-9
Reviewed on: 10/28/2013
Release date: 01/07/2014
DVD-Video - 978-1-63379-618-8
Compact Disc - 978-1-63379-621-8
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Kalman turns her gaze on America’s third president, without the unconditional adoration she brought to Looking at Lincoln. Jefferson was “a terrible speaker but a great writer,” Kalman explains, lingering on his Declaration of Independence’s notions of equality: “It would be many years until most Americans were treated equally but it was the ideal on which America was founded.” Initially, Kalman focuses on Jefferson’s genius for collecting, architecture, and gardening, but halfway through, she reveals, “The man who said of slavery ‘This abomination must end’ was the owner of about 150 slaves. The monumental man had monumental flaws.... What did they do? Everything.” She pictures “the beautiful Sally Hemings” smiling and suggests that “some of” Jefferson and Hemings’s children “were freed and able to pass for white.” Other elephants in the room include Jefferson’s antiquated attitudes toward Native Americans and land grabs. Kalman dwells in conflict and raises questions to the end, pronouncing Monticello a symbol of all that is “optimistic and complex and tragic and wrong and courageous” about America. Includes author notes, not seen by PW. Ages 5–8. Agent: Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. (Jan.)■
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