Saturday, August 9, 2014

History Through Picture Books: Thomas Jefferson

Elementary-age children learn best when lessons are short and engaging, so what better way to teach content-area concepts than with picture books--with living books, as opposed to textbooks? I love picture books! When my children are grown and gone, picture books are one of the things I'll miss the most.

I've never met a preschool or elementary-age child who didn't love to sit for a picture book. Often, they'll sit for the same one more than once, which allows for review of concepts and ensures that the information makes it into the long-term memory bank.

I would love, when my children are older, to write elementary homeschool curriculum for history and science, and maybe art history, based entirely on picture books. But for now, I'm simply sharing books with my own children and categorizing them by subject. I'll be designating a page on my blog to keep a record of my finds, and I hope you'll find this helpful in your own reading and teaching adventures.

Happy Reading!

We will start with biography today, but the following books can also be incorporated into units about the 1700's or 1800's, as they depict the lifestyle and technology of the times.
Biography: Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)

Two controversial things about Thomas Jefferson are that while he believed in liberty for all, he had many slaves, one of whom, Sally Hemings, he allegedly kept as a lover while he was a widower. Sally, of mixed race, was a half-sister of Jefferson's wife, Martha Wayles Skelton. Jefferson is alleged to have had six children with Sally, and apparently a DNA test confirmed this for at least one of her son's descendants in 1998. A couple of these picture books bring that controversial relationship up briefly in author notes, which you can either skip, or read and discuss with your older children. It is not discussed within the body of the texts. While we can admire certain things about our world's heroes, none are without blemish, and that in itself is a lesson for our children. No person is to be idealized.

Thomas Jefferson Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything  by Maira Kalman (published 1/7/2014)

Overview: (Grades 1 - 4) Renowned artist Maira Kalman sheds light on the fascinating life and interests of the Renaissance man who was our third president.

Thomas Jefferson is perhaps best known for writing the Declaration of Independence—but there’s so much more to discover. This energetic man was interested in everything. He played violin, spoke seven languages and was a scientist, naturalist, botanist, mathematician and architect. He designed his magnificent home, Monticello, which is full of objects he collected from around the world. Our first foodie, he grew over fifteen kinds of peas and advocated a mostly vegetarian diet. And oh yes, as our third president, he doubled the size of the United States and sent Lewis and Clark to explore it. He also started the Library of Congress and said, “I cannot live without books.” But monumental figures can have monumental flaws, and Jefferson was no exception. Although he called slavery an “abomination,” he owned about 150 slaves.

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock (published 9/1/2013)

Synopsis: (grades 1 - 5) As soon as Thomas Jefferson learned to read, he found his passion: books, books, and more books! Before, during, and after the American Revolution, Jefferson collected thousands of books on hundreds of subjects. In fact, his massive collection eventually helped rebuild the Library of Congress—now the largest library in the world. Barb Rosenstock’s rhythmic words and John O’Brien’s whimsical illustrations capture Jefferson’s passion for the written word as well as little-known details about book collecting. Author and artist worked closely with experts to create the first picture book on Jefferson’s love of reading, writing, and books. An author’s note, bibliography, and source notes for quotations are also included.

Thomas Jefferson A Day at Monticello by Elizabeth Chew (published 2/4/2014)

Synopsis: (Grades 3-8) In this fascinating story, readers spend a day with Thomas Jefferson as he and his grandson visit the vast plantation of Monticello. Readers learn about Jefferson; the gadgets and household items that he reinterpreted and the plow he invented; the famous house; the surrounding farms with their gardens, fields, factories, and mills; the workshops of the enslaved people on Mulberry Row; and much, much more.
The book is illustrated with archival as well as newly commissioned illustrations and includes a timeline, bibliography, and index.

Praise for Thomas Jefferson
"The illustrations include excellent photos of sites, artifacts, and documents as well as paintings that extend the text. The lightly fictionalized, engaging narrative, which includes many conversations, is bolstered by sidebars offering additional information..."

"After finishing this beautifully illustrated book, also stocked with abundant photographs of artifacts housed at Monticello, readers will be left more curious than ever about the life and accomplishments of Thomas Jefferson."
--School Library Journal

A Picture Book of Thomas Jefferson by David Adler (published 3/28/1990)

Synopsis: School Library Journal Gr 1-3 -- Adler makes Jefferson accessible to young children in this new addition to his biography series. In the brief text, he covers the main achievements and events in Jefferson's life and portrays him as an intellectual, inventor, lawyer, architect, and statesman who disliked presidential pomp. He mentions that, although opposed to the idea of slavery, Jefferson owned slaves throughout his life and several are depicted in the illustrations. Adler's writing is clear and objective, free of fictionalization, and easily read. It will also serve as a read-aloud. The format is attractive; each double-page spread contains a framed painting with short paragraphs superimposed on the illustration. The Wallners' charming watercolors include many details that show the furnishings, clothing, and daily life of 18th-century Virginia. Easier to read than Smith's Thomas Jefferson (Messner, 1989), the book is an informative introduction to this prominent American leader.

Thomas Jefferson A Picture Book Biography by James Cross Giblin (published Scholastic 1994)

Synopsis: Booklist Gr. 4-6, younger for reading aloud. In the same picture-book format as the author and illustrator's George Washington (1992), this volume presents the life of Thomas Jefferson. Giblin records the significant events in Jefferson's long and varied career with enough personal incidents and sidelights to give readers some sense of the man himself, as well as his place in history. Despite the limits of a 48-page picture book, Giblin portrays Jefferson as a complicated, many-sided man and is candid about such issues as his involvement with slavery. Dooling's dramatic oil paintings stretch across each double-page spread. In this series of impressionistic illustrations of people and places, Jefferson appears first as a three-year-old, gradually maturing in the pictures as the story progresses, a series of transitions Dooling manages with finesse. The book ends with a helpful chronology, a series of intriguing quotations from Jefferson's letters, and a section describing Jefferson's beloved home, Monticello. Historically accurate and visually handsome, this is the best Jefferson biography available for young students.

DK Biography: Thomas Jefferson (by DK Publishing, March, 2009)

Synopsis: (ages 8 - 13 yrs) Filled with archival photographs and amazing fact boxes, DK Biography is a groundbreaking series that introduces young readers to some of history's most interesting and influential characters.

From his childhood in Virginia to his two terms as President of the United States, DK Biography: Thomas Jefferson tells the story of the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

Supports the Common Core State Standards.

top image

No comments: