Today is the 274th birthday of Thomas Jefferson. In the list of presidents, he might be my favorite — shhh! Don’t tell my coworkers at Lincoln Elementary.

I chose three nonfiction picture books about him and loved them all.

My favorite of the three books is Jesfferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock. Jefferson was an avid reader. He was literate in multiple languages and purchased books all the time. Sadly his collection was devastated by fire more than once. After a fire destroyed the budding Library of Congress, Thomas sold his collection of 6,500 hundred books to the government for a fraction of their value. While president, Jefferson doubled the size of the country and more than tripled the number of books in the library.

I cannot live without books.

Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation focused on Jefferson’s love of being a farmer. He grew seeds and science, liberty and learning, farmers, freedom, and democracy.

Planting a new world with the seeds of just government will produce a remarkable era in the history of mankind.

This was the highest level book and though it had great information in it, I found it a little dry.

I like Maira Kalman’s nonfiction books.  This book’s colorful illustrations and funky type setting made it very interesting visually. It covered all the basic Jefferson like the other two, and it was the only one of the three to discuss Sally Hemings.

Jefferson was a great man. He was a farmer, an architect, a scientist, a musician, an author, an ambassador, a statesman, a visionary, a father and a husband. I have read that some historians think he may have had Asperger’s Syndrome.  He was a slave owner. All three books pointed out this fact, and did not sugarcoat it. In truth, all of the founding fathers were slave owners. It isn’t excusable but it was the world they were raised in.

As for Sally Hemings, I did some research and it’s very possible that she was the half sister to Jefferson’s wife who died in childbirth at a young age. I wonder if he came to love her after the loss of his wife and had a second family with her–there is DNA proof of this union. He would never have been able to marry her and by law his children with her were slaves. Maybe the two of them made the best of a bad situation.

We are a lucky country to have had this Renaissance Man in our history. Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

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