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Junior Library Guild – Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library - Barb Rosenstock

Junior Library Guild Review

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

by Barb Rosenstock

illustrations by John O’Brien

ISBN: 9781590789322

A voracious reader and book collector all his life, Thomas Jefferson owned so many books that in 1814, he donated his personal library to serve as the new Library of Congress. Author’s note. Note about Thomas Jefferson as a slaveholder. Selected bibliography and source notes. Full-color illustrations done in pen and ink and watercolor.

Publishers Weekly Review – Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library - Barb RosenstockThomas Jefferson “gobbled books the way a starving man eats.” Rosenstock’s (The Camping Trip That Changed America) apt metaphor sets the tone for this jaunty picture-book biography of the third U.S. president. Following Jefferson’s birth in 1743 to his restocking of the Library of Congress in 1815, the playful narrative (“While at college, he read fifteen hours a day. Guess what he started collecting?!”) complements even more playful illustrations. O’Brien’s (Look… Look Again!) dynamic ink-and-watercolor illustrations show the redheaded leader in perpetual motion around books, exaggerating his hobby to humorous effect. Jefferson stacks tomes on his mantel in the shape of the word “books” or reads several books at once by swinging from a trapeze. Pointillist dots overlay the artwork, texturing O’Brien’s pictures with a mottled look. Readers’ eyes will dart among several scenes in each spread, the busy layout giving a sense of Jefferson’s full education-driven life. Appearing on nearly every page are images of small, open books that provide further biographical facts and quotations. Author notes and a bibliography wrap up a lively peek at a literature-loving political giant. Ages 8–up. (Sept.)

Barbara Rosenstock, illus. by John O’Brien. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59078-932-2

Calkins Creek Books – Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library - Barb Rosenstock 

   Good Reads Book Reviews


   Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

     by Barb Rosenstock -Author
     John O’Brien  – Illustrator
     Hardcover, 32 pages
     Published September 1st 2013 by Calkins Creek Books
     1590789326 (ISBN13: 9781590789322)

A fascinating look at Thomas Jefferson that many people probably do not know about. In all of the books I have read about Jefferson, I did not realize he was such a book collector. The stories of his book collecting were fascinating, the quotes included along the way add a great deal to the story, as well as the anecdotes about the time period. The author’s note at the end shares more about the book collection and Jefferson owning slaves. A good bibliography is included showing the amount of res…more

Since learning a more complete history of Jefferson in recent years, I find I have to set aside that information to focus on the limited scope of this book. The is no denying the impressive contribute he made to our country in politics and in concrete terms when he regenerated our Library of Congress after it was destroyed by fire. The writing, citations of actual quotations from family members, and informative illustrations make this an appealing and important book for many ages.

“I cannot live without books” quoted by Mr. Jefferson in 1815. This picture book explains his life’s dedication to books and libraries. When visiting Europe, he purchased two thousand books in five years! His library became the foundation for the Library of Congress. The pen/ink drawings are supplemented with watercolors, which is very appealing. This book is for all ages!
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)

Thomas Jefferson had his faults but this book focuses on his love for reading and collecting of books. I learned a lot about Jefferson’s contribution to the Library of Congress’ collection (basically starting/rebuilding it).
Brenda Kahn

A busy little biography of Thomas Jefferson’s love of books and libraries. Informative and energetic. But wondering about the illustration of Monticello, which lacks the signature octagonal room.
Bruce Deming

Really nice Children’s Picture Book. I learned thinks about Thomas JEfferson I didn’t know and I admire him much more.Lovely story.

Edward Sullivan

How can a passionate bibliophile like me not love a book about another passionate bibliophile like Thomas Jefferson?

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library Book Reviews

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library - Barb Rosenstock

Kid Lit Frenzy Book Review

Author: Barb Rosenstock
Illustrator: John O’Brien
Publisher: Calkins Creek Books (September 1, 2013)
Source: Purchased
Audience: 2nd to 4th grade
Keywords: American History, Biographical, American Presidents, Libraries

Description from Publisher:
Thomas Jefferson loved books, reading, and libraries, and he started accumulating books as a young man. This original and lyrical picture-book biography tells the story of how Jefferson’s vast book collections helped to create the world’s largest library, the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Filled with excerpts from primary documents, including Jefferson’s thoughts on books, reading, and learning, this title also features John O’Brien’s whimsical and detailed illustrations. Rosenstock and O’Brien worked closely with experts to ensure the text and images are accurate. The book concludes with an author’s note, bibliography, and source notes.

My thoughts on this book:
Last year I read, Barb Rosenstock’s The Camping Trip that Changed America.  This was my first introduction to Rosenstock’s work, and I really enjoyed the book.  I was excited to see that she had a new one out, and pulled if off of the new release wall at Vroman’s.  I don’t think I had read more than a couple of pages when I knew that this was one that I had to have.   A few days later, I attended a book group of about 20+ teachers and librarians who book talk their latest book finds.  Guess which book I brought with me? If you said Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library, you would be 100% correct.

What made me like this book as much as I did?   Page 6.  Well, yes, I did love page six and it is in the book trailer. Hint: What word did Jefferson spell out?  But, let me be serious for a minute.  Rosenstock fully captures Thomas Jefferson’s love for books.  Jefferson loved to read nearly above all else.  Jefferson loved books so much that he began collecting them.  On his first trip to Europe, Jefferson shopped for books.  “Tom bought two thousand books in five years, more than a book a day.”  That is some serious book shopping.

Still, there is more to love about this book.  Did you know that Jefferson had his own system for organizing books?  Did you know that while president, Jefferson tripled the number of books in the Library of Congress?  And after the Library of Congress experienced a fire that burned through 3,000 books, Jefferson donated his personal collection to the Library of Congress.

Though this book is focused on specific events in Jefferson’s life as they related to books, the foucs is a good one that works.  The book does include an author’s note and other tidbits of information and various resources at the end.  I encourage you to read through them.  Also, Rosenstock’s text provides readers with information for further research on Jefferson and the Library of Congress.  Readers are invited to read through the book using the main text to inform and inspire them.  However, readers can read the book for a second or third time, as they look through the illustrations and read all of the small text boxes.

Rosenstock’s Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library would make a nice addition to any  classroom or school library.  Look for this book at your public library or pick up a copy at your local independent bookstore.



 Book Page – Book Review




It’s never too early for kids to get acquainted with history—to have aha! moments as they identify role models and make important connections. The picture books featured here serve up factual information in story form and provide great introductions to significant figures from America’s past.


Barb Rosenstock’s Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library (ages 8 to 11) is a lighthearted profile of our third president—a statesman with a serious book fixation. Born in Shadwell, Virginia, in 1743, Tom Jefferson grows up with a love for books, a passion that serves him well as he enters politics. Through the years, he collects thousands of titles on all sorts of subjects. His wife, Martha, is a kindred spirit, and together, they instill a love of reading in their children. John O’Brien’s jolly, rollicking pen-and-ink illustrations show the great man reading in the unlikeliest of places (while balancing on the bowsprit of a ship, for instance). Teeming shelves and precariously stacked piles deliver a sense of the density of Tom’s personal collection, the vast size of which enables him to resupply the Library of Congress after the British burn it in 1814. Rosenstock, who knows how to make facts fun, has written a spirited story that stands as testament to the impact of books. This is a biography that young readers will learn from and enjoy—at the same time!



Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library Video Trailer