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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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Kids Book Review – Three Picture Books for the Fourth of July

CELEBRATING INDEPENDENCE DAY

WITH A ROUNDUP OF PICTURE BOOKS

 

 

A IS FOR AMERICA
A BabyLit Book

Written and illustrated by Greg Paprocki
(Gibbs Smith; $9.99, Ages 0-3)

I’m a big fan of the BabyLit series and I especially like their alphabet primers, A is for America being no exception. It’s full of simple, relatable examples yet sophisticated with its retro-style art and bonanza of bright colors and detailed scenes.

Paprocki has assembled a pleasing assortment of Independence Day and overall America-themed illustrations including E is for Eagle and M is for Mount Rushmore. Of course it makes sense to share F is for Fireworks but I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of Q is for Quill as we see John Hancock writing his easily identifiable cursive signature on the Declaration of Independence.

Playful and pertinent, this charming 32-page board book serves not only as an alphabet primer but as a terrific way to acquaint little ones with our country’s history. From the first colonies to the transcontinental railroad when east met west, from the pilgrims to George Washington, A is for America honors our nation’s past and what it means to us now.

Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

MY FOURTH OF JULY
Written by Jerry Spinelli
Illustrated by Larry Day
(Neal Porter Books; $18.99, Ages 4-8)

My Fourth of July is a joyful look at Independence Day through the eyes of an excited little boy. The holiday tale unfolds with the lad still in his pajamas, something I found so sweet, watching the parade passing by from his screen door then even joining in as shown on the cover. My town has a Memorial Day parade but if it had one on the Fourth of July it would be just like this one, full of kids on bikes carrying pinwheels or waving flags and generally having tons of fun. In fact, we even have a big park where many celebrations take place around the gazebo or bandshell just like in Spinelli’s story.

The boy’s in a hurry to get to the park so the family can claim a picnic table, another thing I could relate to! There are hot dogs galore on the grill and all the other mouth-watering food we associate with Independence Day. This imaginary, small town USA has a flag-draped train that passes through (like a scene out of the film Oklahoma) as well as face painting, organized games, a talent show and a concert at the park. Written as a warm, happy slice of life story with little to no obstacles (unless getting a prime picnic spot counts), Spinelli’s picture book celebrates family, community and tradition. It’s wonderful when everyone makes their way to the baseball field to watch the fireworks with Day’s ebullient illustrations depicting the magical display and the emotions it elicits as the day’s festivities come to an end. If you love a feel good picture book that feels both nostalgic and new at the same time, this one’s for you.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AMERICAN?
Written by Rana DiOrio & Elad Yoran
Illustrated by Nina Mata
(Little Pickle Press; $17.99, Ages 4 and up)

Calling yourself an American is more than watching fireworks on the Fourth of July, or eating fast food. It is believing that all people are equal as told by Rana DiOrio along with debut children’s book author, Elad Yoran, in the forty-page picture book, What Does it Mean to be American? Colorful, feel good illustrations by Nina Mata beautifully convey the many different aspects the authors address. Teachers and parents alike will enjoy this upbeat social studies lesson that educates young children on the importance of being grateful and that dreams can come true by working hard because all Americans have the freedom to choose whom we love, what we believe, what we do, and where we live.

 

WDIMTB American int4
What Does it Mean to be American? written by Rana DiOrio and Elad Yoran with illustrations by Nina Mata, Little Pickle Press ©2019.

 

The story begins with an interracial couple and their daughter traveling through the desert surrounded by cactus, mountains and a clear blue sky in a van packed with suitcases. The opening sentence is the question, What does it mean to be American? In the array of artwork, we see the young girl smiling as she attends a half Jewish wedding ceremony; she salutes a woman in military gear; and in another she hugs an older former military man seated in a wheelchair. Being American means having access to abundant natural resources so we see the child walking in the great outdoors, enjoying time in nature while holding her mother’s hand, a reminder to be grateful all year for her family’s many blessings.

 

WDIMTB American Int6
What Does it Mean to be American? written by Rana DiOrio and Elad Yoran with illustrations by Nina Mata, Little Pickle Press ©2019.

 

As the reader turns the page, our character sees people from all countries working in America and learns to appreciate that people from all kinds of backgrounds have something to offer her, whether it’s playing a game of chess or exercising with an elder in the park. As the little girl sits on her father’s shoulders, he tells her about people in the past who had the creativity to invent new things and that she should be proud of all that Americans have accomplished, yet humble about all we still need to learn. The illustrations take us back to the invention of the computer and the automobile, but also remind us that women fought for their right to vote.

This vital story that every parent must take time with their young kids to discuss, reminds us to become our best self, but that we also have an obligation to help others (something children can NEVER  hear enough of!) With mindfulness lessons on the importance of being present mixed in with a rich lesson in our American history, readers learn that the greatest nation in the world can always be better!

In addition to loving the message throughout this book, I got excited reading the back matter. Writers Rana and Elad share that their intention for writing the story was to encourage adults in children’s lives to start meaningful conversations about what it means to be American. With a fabulous history lesson reminding readers what our forefathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence to a guided list of questions to continue the conversation with young and older children alike, we are reminded about all the amazing people who made America what it is today.

This is a great read for teachers who can jump start a discussion with these initial questions, and then lead into so many other topics. Bravo to the writers who said, Being American means welcoming people from other countries and helping them learn what it means to be American … and appreciating that our differences make us kinder, smarter, healthier and stronger. Don’t miss the other great books in the What Does It Mean to Be …? series.

Reviewed by Guest Reviewer Ronda Einbinder
Ronda is a teacher/writer who worked for Irvine Unified School District assisting students in grades K-6. She is also a 500-Hour Registered Yoga Instructor, teaching yoga and mindfulness both publicly and privately. Previously, she was a writer and publicist for ObesityHelp magazine and non-profit medical facilities.

 

Click here to read last year’s Fourth of July book reviews.

 

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