Last updated: September 13, 2016
Thomas Jefferson: A Day at Monticello, by Elizabeth Chew. Abrams Books (New York) and The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2014.
Thomas Jefferson: A Day at Monticello is a delightful and enlightening children's book that invites readers to join Jefferson and his grandson as they visit his 5,000 acre plantation.Along the way, readers learn about the former president, the gadgets and items he invented or altered for his household;the surrounding farms and gardens;the workshops of the slaves on Mulberry Row, and of course, his famous house, Monticello.
Author Elizabeth Chew, a former curator at Monticello, weaves a good story. The book begins in 1813 as the former president, now 70, writes letters, and breakfasts with family members and friends, including Francis, his 11-year old grandson. Jefferson and Francis make the rounds of the plantation discussing the ongoing work of farming and mill construction. The topic of slavery also comes up during the course of the day.
Later, Jefferson entertains dinner guests and reminisces about his past, before retiring to read before bed. Portions of American history are woven through the narrative, but the book focuses more on Jefferson's personal habits and interests than his public accomplishments.The lightly fictionalized narrative, which includes many conversations, is strengthened by sidebars offering additional information about topics such as Jefferson's Weather Memorandum Book, his alcove bed, and his views on religion and slavery.
The book includes both lovely illustrations and recent photographs of Monticello.
By following Jefferson around Monticello for a day, juvenile readers get only a brief glimpse of his role as president, but it is a fascinating and colorful journey and enough to whet most children's appetite to seek more.