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Picture Book Review for Independence Day – Thomas Jefferson’s Battle for Science

 

THOMAS JEFFERSON’S BATTLE FOR SCIENCE:
Bias, Truth, and a Mighty Moose!

Written by Beth Anderson

Illustrated by Jeremy Holmes

(Calkins Creek; $18.99; Ages 7-10)

 

 

Thomas Jefferson's Battle for Science cover moose being shot from cannon.

 

 

From the publisher:

“Thomas Jefferson is one of the most famous founding fathers, but did you know that his mind was always on science? This STEM/STEAM picture book tells how Jefferson’s scientific thinking and method battled against faulty facts and bias to prove that his new nation was just as good as any in the Old World.”

 

From Kirkus  – Starred Review:

“The story of Thomas Jefferson’s fury at a French scientist’s misinformation about the New World introduces young readers to the scientific inquiry process … A delightfully enlightening account and a welcome antidote to our own time’s precarious truthiness.”

Booklist Starred Review and Horn Book Recommended

Review:

Does the world really need another Thomas Jefferson biography? I asked myself before reading Beth Anderson and Jeremy Holmes’s recent collaboration, Thomas Jefferson’s Battle for Science, from Calkins Creek. YES! When it’s one that’s focused on bias and Jefferson’s quest to combat the spread of misinformation. That is a book we need. (And it is great fun!)

Thomas Jefferson was passionate about science. “It was certain, peaceful, measurable.”

 

Thomas Jefferson's Battle for Science int1 scientific items.
Interior spread from Thomas Jefferson’s Battle for Science: Bias, Truth, and a Mighty Moose! written by Beth Anderson and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes, Calkins Creek ©2024.

 

But when French scientist Count Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon published an encyclopedia slamming the New World, Jefferson was livid. How did Buffon know what the New World was like? Where did he get his facts? Was he biased against Jefferson’s home?

 

Thomas Jefferson's Battle for Science int2 Thomas's Fury Flared.
Interior art from Thomas Jefferson’s Battle for Science: Bias, Truth, and a Mighty Moose! written by Beth Anderson and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes, Calkins Creek ©2024.

 

Anderson sets up the philosophical battle between Jefferson and Buffon in an accessible, kid-friendly way; and keeps the book focused through years of Jefferson’s research, correspondence with Buffon, and his very pivotal role in guiding a would-be nation to independence showcasing her skill as a storyteller and historian (and Jefferson’s never quit attitude).

 

 

Thomas Jefferson's Battle for Science int3 Time to Fight for Truth.
Interior spread from Thomas Jefferson’s Battle for Science: Bias, Truth, and a Mighty Moose! written by Beth Anderson and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes, Calkins Creek ©2024.

 

Holmes uses mixed media and comic book techniques to create the look of an old, scientific journal making the book feel both modern and accurate to the period. The art plays off Anderson’s straightforward tone to create a story that is witty and extremely relevant today.

 

Thomas Jefferson's Battle for Science int4 war on faulty facts.
Interior art from Thomas Jefferson’s Battle for Science: Bias, Truth, and a Mighty Moose! written by Beth Anderson and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes, Calkins Creek ©2024.

 

Backmatter highlights the scientific method and Jefferson’s own struggle with bias, making this book a great way to introduce both concepts to young readers.

*Highly recommended!

  • Reviewed by Roxanne Troup

 

 

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Ordinary People Change The World: I am George Washington by Brad Meltzer

ORDINARY PEOPLE CHANGE THE WORLD:
I AM GEORGE WASHINGTON
Written by Brad Meltzer
Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
(Dial BYR; $12.99, Ages 5-8)

 

cover image of I am George Washington by Brad Meltzer

 

For Presidents’ Day 2017, let’s take a look at Brad Meltzer’s I am George Washington, another terrific biography in the popular and entertaining Ordinary People Change The World series. These books serve as a great introduction to some of the world’s greatest heroes and historical figures while emphasizing that individuals are not born into greatness but work hard to achieve it, earning the public’s trust, respect and admiration along the way. Each person depicted in the series has demonstrated proven leadership skills or unique knowledge making them worthy of inclusion.

The fourth of nine children, George Washington had great people skills, something needed in a large family, and eventually, to run a nascent country. Back when Washington was growing up, there was no U.S.A. yet, only colonies ruled by Great Britain. Readers will learn how Washington’s older brother Lawrence, fourteen years his senior, had a positive impact on his younger brother. In fact, a soldier himself, Lawrence influenced Washington’s decision to serve in the military. When his father died, Washington’s family could no longer “afford proper schooling so my brothers had to teach me at home.” At sixteen, Washington worked as a surveyor in the Shenandoah Valley with a wealthy family called the Fairfaxes. They treated him kindly and exposed him to the finer things in life. Yet, despite the opportunity to hobnob with the rich, Washington never forgot his roots and all the people less privileged than the Fairfaxes. He later fulfilled his childhood dream by joining the military, showing bravery and leadership in battle and being made “commander of all Virginia’s fighting forces.” George Washington also ran for office, and though he lost at his first attempt, he won all future elections.

 

George Washington Timeline from Ordinary People Change the World
Interior spread of George Washington Timeline from Ordinary People Change the World: I am George Washington by Brad Meltzer with illustrations by Christopher Eliopoulos, Dial Books ©2016.

 

When the American Revolution began in protest against high taxes imposed by Britain, “Our thirteen colonies decided we would fight together against King George III.” Washington was chosen to lead the battle. Cleverness, determination and unparalleled leadership helped the less experienced military of the colonies defeat the mighty British led, of course, by General George Washington. And the rest, of course is history, with Washington being selected as the first president of the United States of America.

What I love about Meltzer’s writing and Eliopoulos’ artwork is that they make learning about these important people so accessible, interesting and fun. Who doesn’t love seeing a miniature George Washington on every page or having him narrate his life’s story? Picking out the most relevant aspects of any individual’s life is never easy and to condense them into a picture book biography for elementary school aged kids and still be meaningful takes a lot of experience, something best-selling author Meltzer has lots of! The choice of Eliopoulos as illustrator is just icing on the cake and I cannot imagine this series with any other style artwork. And did I notice author Meltzer drawn into one spread near the end? See for yourself and let me know.

“Leadership doesn’t come from charisma or personality.
It comes from courage:
The courage to do what’s right.
The courage to serve others.
The courage to go first.”

And George Washington, the father of our country, had enough courage for an entire nation and we celebrate him today.

Ordinary People Change the World website
Brad Meltzer website
Christopher Eliopoulos website

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
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