PPBF: Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

TITLE: Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

AUTHOR: Barb Rosenstock


PUBLICATION INFO: Calkins Creek, Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59078-932-2

SOURCE:  personal collection

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 8 and up

GENRE: nonfiction


“Thomas Jefferson learned to read. And then, he never stopped.”

From the Publisher’s Web site: 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.


WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Oh, where to start. I’m a big fan of both Thomas Jefferson and Barb Rosenstock. I attended Mr. Jefferson’s University (University of Virginia) and worked as an intern in Monticello’s research department. I adore Barb Rosenstock’s slice-of-life histories. She doesn’t try to tell Jefferson’s whole life story. Instead, she focuses on one particular aspect of his character — his passion for books — and uses that to illuminate a piece of history. And it’s clear that she has researched her topic thoroughly. I am using this book as a mentor text for a manuscript I’m working on.


  • Rosenstock has a teacher’s guide on her Web site. There are lots of fun activities and questions aligned with the Common Core.
  • Visit your school or local library. How are the books organized? What kind of books do you find?
  • Write your own book. I’ve blogged about book writing for young children previously. I find Joyful Learning in KC to be one of the best blogs around for teaching writing to very young children.
  • Take an online tour of the Library of Congress. I took an in-person tour years ago, and it is so lovely.

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

31 thoughts on “PPBF: Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library”

  1. Thomas Jefferson is among my favorite historical individuals. You always find such a great biographical or nonfiction selections. I loved visiting Monticello. How cool to work in the research department. I like this new focus — on his love for books! Great pick and resources.

    1. Barb Rosenstock really is a master at this type of narrative historical nonfiction. I was so thrilled when I found out she had a book coming out about my favorite president and his passion for books!

  2. i just love historic fiction, especially when it relates to US history and books! I can also appreciate your offering since I am a former school librarian. Thanks for sharing, Kirsten.

    1. Just to clarify, Jarm, this is 100% nonfiction, and well-research nonfiction at that. Rosenstock has a 2-page bibliography in the book. She and the illustrator worked with experts to make sure everything was accurate.

  3. Looks like a wonderful book! How neat to have interned at Monticello. I toured Monticello and thought it was beautiful!

    1. The Enlightenment was such an interesting age. Everybody thought they could do anything they set their minds too. People like Jefferson had so many talents and interests, making for great book characters.

  4. What a fantastic book – I like that it is about just one aspect – not Thomas Jefferson’s entire life. And, so great to see his passion for books and that we now have the Library of Congress. We’ll have to look for this one – thanks for the review!

  5. What a great nonfiction chose, Kirsten. I am also partial to books about books and libraries, so this is a win all around for me!

  6. Just ran across this and you’re making me blush! Thanks so much Kirsten, I’m glad you liked it (and coming from a former Monticello research intern it means all the more!) More “historical stories” on the way!

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