Monday, October 10, 2011

Thomas Jefferson for Kids

Thomas Jefferson for Kids: His Life and Times with 21 Activities Brandon Marie Miller

The basic concept for the For Kids.. with 21 activities series is it's a biography with crafts, projects, and activities interspersed that relate to the person or to the time period. In the past, my biggest complaint has been with the age range, especially of the activities-- some are for kids too old for the book, some for kids too young.

That is not a problem with Thomas Jefferson for Kids. The activities are all age-appropriate with the text, with what I feel is 4-7th grades. There's also a good range of activities-- a Jeffersonian model of the solar system (Neptune optional), dancing a reel (very well explained!), making a floor plan of your dream house, organizing your library, even making a microscope out of a matchbox. I think there's a good range of things for all interests while still being true to Jefferson and his late Colonial/early Republic time period.

I think the biography itself is also really well done-- Miller does an excellent job of highlighting and discussing the good and the bad and showing his inconsistencies and greatness of character. I think she treats the issue very sensitively and does a great job showing that he wasn't perfect, but doesn't demonize him and showing that he did amazing things without lionizing him.

I especially liked the way the book describes and explains the political issues of the new Republic. The book has a fantastic explanation of Federalism vs. Republicanism and the Jefferson/Adams split. It also shows how Washington was often caught in the middle of the two men.

It's a 2011 Cybils nominee and I have to say that it's overall very well done. I think the activities give it much more kid appeal than it would normally have. That said, it lacks that certain je ne sais quoi to move it from solidly well done to best of the best.

Today's nonfiction roundup is over at Practically Paradise.

Book Provided by... my local library

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GatheringBooks said...

Nice. I just checked our community libraries - apparently we don't have this one yet, being published quite recently. I'm coming up with a list though of books to recommend to our libraries here, so this would definitely be one of them. Thanks for the recommendation! Always enjoy reading your reviews.

Roberta said...

Oh, you found it, good for you. I am still looking.

I really like the hands-on activities to reinforce learning, although I agree they don't always fit a clear age range.