Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

Image of Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library
Release Date: 
January 24, 2023
Calkins Creek
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The Library of Congress was started when Thomas Jefferson sold his entire library to the U.S. Government. He was a lifelong reader. “Before he turned six, people said he’d read every book in his father’s library.”

Thomas started collecting books in college. He got married and had children, encouraging them to read. He built his home, Monticello, complete with his private library. When the colonists wanted freedom from England, they picked Thomas Jefferson to represent them. “At the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Tom used all he knew, from all the books he’d read, to write the Declaration of Independence.”

Thomas read lines from their favorite book when his wife, Martha, lay dying after giving birth to a baby girl. Then Thomas was asked to move to Paris to “ask the King of France for help with trade and loans.” He agreed to go. He saw the library in France, which inspired him to shop for books in many languages.

“Tom bought two thousand books in five years, more than a book a day.” Ten years later, he returned to the U.S., where he was elected the third president. “The U.S. Congress owned a small reference library of books on law and government. President Jefferson supported this Library of Congress. He doubled the size of the country and more than tripled the number of books in its library.”

Each page has open books in the art with extra information for the reader. One open book explains the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. An open book at the end tells that “Congress paid $23,950 for Jefferson’s books—a little more than half what they were worth.” Many Americans thought they were a donation, but they weren’t.

The pen and ink drawings are colored with muted earth tones of brown, green rust, and pale blue. This gives the book an old-timey feeling, which is opposite of today’s loud bold colors in picture books. It is a reprint from 2013, which explains the art. The art still works, since the book is nonfiction and historical. At least the cover has Jefferson in a purple coat with brightly colored books on the shelves.

The Author’s Note at the end mentions Jefferson’s role as a slaveholder and how it contradicts what he wrote in the Declaration of Independence about all men being free. A bibliography follows, along with quotation sources.

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library is more than just a book about the Library of Congress. It tells about some of his life but leaves out other information. Who took care of his baby girl and other children when he went to France for ten years? Is that information not available? Rosenstock told the story as best she could with the available information.