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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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The Mayflower by Mark Greenwood

The Mayflower written by Mark Greenwood
and illustrated by Frané Lessac
(Holiday House, 2014. $16.95. Ages 4-8)

A Voyage to the First Thanksgiving

The-Mayflower-cvr.jpgIn 1621, a group of nearly 100 people, many of whom experienced religious persecution, left England to find a place where they could worship freely. After an arduous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean–which included violent storms and the birth of a child, they sighted land and eventually founded a settlement near Plymouth Harbor.

Their troubles were not over. Arriving late in the year, they faced a cold and difficult winter. Many were ill. However, in early spring, Squanto, a native from a local tribe, taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn and fertilize the fields with fish. That fall, Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag, and 90 of his warriors joined the Pilgrims for a harvest celebration, our first Thanksgiving

Greenwood’s narrative in this picture book can be read aloud to young children to introduce them to the traditional Thanksgiving story. Complex issues, such as religious persecution and the Mayflower Compact, are briefly, but clearly expressed in language young children can understand. The hardships the Pilgrims faced are not overdramatized and the author weaves in interesting “kid friendly” facts about daily life aboard the ship: food, sleeping arrangements, entertainment, etc.

Lessac’s colorful gouache illustrations, reminiscent of folk art, enliven the narrative and create a vivid and dramatic visual of the journey and the settlement. A stunning two-page spread of a beautiful, calm night at sea, the sky full of stars sparkling around a full moon, belies the dangers the ship would soon face on its journey to the new world. Sure enough, a month later, the Mayflower and its passengers and crew sail into the stormy season, which Lessac stylistically portrays with a pinkish sky dotted with dark storm clouds. Jagged bolts of lightning and torrents of rain fall from the clouds. The image of the ship rolling in the rough sea further demonstrates the ocean’s frightening power and the hardships the crew and passengers faced on their way to the new world.

An excellent and colorful read aloud to introduce younger children to the origins of our Thanksgiving celebration.

Visit Australian author Mark Greenwood’s website for more information about his books.

Illustrator Frané Lessac’s website is a must-see for her artwork and a video about how the illustrator works.

Click here for Holiday House’s Educator’s Guide for this book.

Enjoy this dramatic book trailer for The Mayflower.


– Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

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