Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library
by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by John O'Brien
Calkins Creek, 2013. 32 pgs. Nonfiction
When President Kennedy hosted a dinner for all the Nobel laureates of the Western Hemisphere, he began the evening with his opinion that " . . . this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." Jefferson might easily be reckoned the brainiest of our presidents, not only because he was so smart and skilled, but because he read constantly. In Rosenstock's delightful picture nonfiction book we learn how Jefferson took to books at an early age--he'd read all of his father's books before he turned six--and spent the rest of his life reading and collecting books for his library. He read in bed, on horseback, fifteen hours a day when he was a student. He lost his earliest library to a fire, and when the British burned the Capitol during the War of 1812, the small Congressional library was destroyed, so Jefferson donated his by-then voluminous collection as the seed of the Library of Congress. John O'Brien's sprightly drawings combine with Barb Rosenstock's fascinating text to make a book about libraries and the love of reading delightfully entertaining.