Nonfiction Monday: President's Day

Those Rebels, John & Tom
written by Barbara Kerley, Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Scholastic Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-545-22268-6
48 p.
Grades 2-6
Reviewed from personal copy.

BLURB: A brilliant portrait of two American heroes from the award-winning creators of The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)!John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were very different.John Adams was short and stout. Thomas Jefferson was tall and lean.John was argumentative and blunt.Tom was soft-spoken and polite. John sometimes got along with almost no one.Tom got along with just about everyone. But these two very different gentlemen did have two things in common: They both cared deeply about the American colonies, and neither cared much for the British tyrant, King George. With their signature wit, impeccable research, and inventive presentation style, award winners Barbara Kerley and Edwin Fotheringham masterfully blend biography and history to create a brilliant portrait of two American heroes who bravely set aside their differences to join forces in the fight for our country's freedom.

I found this book delightful in both pictures and words.  I enjoyed how Kerley presents both main characters side by side and then merges them together after they met.  This technique allows the reader to see just how different John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were as well as the commonalities that brought them together.  Fotheringham does a fantastic job with the illustrations.  The cartoonish nature of the illustrations adds humor and  emotional expression.  I especially liked the maps that showed the connections and distance between Great Britain and the colonies. I appreciated the appropriately placed quotes from both Adams and Jefferson.  Overall, I'd say this is a great book for introducing the people and events that lead to the creation of the United States of America.

Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the True Story of an American Feud
written by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain, illustrated by Larry Day
Dutton Children's Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-47903-1
32 p.
Grades 2-6
Reviewed from library copy. 

BLURB: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were good friends with very different personalities. But their differing views on how to run the newly created United States turned them into the worst of friends. They each became leaders of opposing political parties, and their rivalry followed them to the White House. Full of both history and humor, this is the story of two of America's most well-known presidents and how they learned to put their political differences aside for the sake of friendship.

I always find it interesting to read several books on the same topic.  Even when the same ground is covered, I find that the writers/illustrators include different details.  This book covers some of the same material as the book reviewed above.  But it does it in such a way that I did not feel like I was reading the same material, plus the details included by each author and illustrator were different.
This book provides a brief overview of the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.  The two men were different in many ways, physical size, temperament, etc. But they shared a passionate belief in America's right to form her own government.  But they differed greatly on presidential power and centralized government.  This lead to the feud mentioned in the title.  In this book, I think the details that I found the most interesting were the different ways Adams and Jefferson described each other both during their years of conflict and afterwords. During their conflict, Jefferson called Adams, "vain, suspicious, irritable, stubborn, and wrong." Adams called Jefferson ,"weak, confused, uninformed, and ignorant."  After their years of conflict, Adams said, "I always loved Jefferson" and Jefferson said Adams was, "honest" and "great."  This book does a great job of indicating that people change over time and things that seem so very important at one point can become less important over time.  I also enjoyed the humorous elements that the illustrator chose to include.  For example, the picture of John Adams jumping on his wig is very amusing as our the pictures of Jefferson and Adams with their own respective grandkids (Jefferson's grandkids are throwing snowballs, Adam's grandkids are throwing pudding all over his living room).  This book provides a great way to introduce two of America's founding fathers, along with the fact that while they did great things, they were far from perfect.

Check out this week's Nonfiction Monday at Lori Calabrese Writes for more great children's nonfiction.


  1. I am going to check these out. Looks like a fresh way to look at these men.


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