Thomas 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.)Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Gr 1-5—It is no small feat to entertain children in a book about loving books (an increasingly crowded shelf), but this duo succeeds admirably through well-chosen facts, staggering statistics, an interactive text, and humor. Readers glimpse Jefferson's childhood, adolescence, fatherhood, and presidency through his obsession with reading. There is levity and energy in O'Brien's ink and watercolor scenes. Jefferson's horse has a book-shaped saddle; young Tom fiddles while reading the music from a book mounted to the bridle. There is also sadness, when Jefferson reads to his wife on her deathbed. The full-spread compositions are supplemented by insets shaped like open books that contain quotes by or about Jefferson and his times or interests. In one, a slave remembers that his master might have 20 books surrounding him on the floor. Another describes his revolving bookstand holding five volumes, so he "never needed to stop writing to read or stop reading to write." Rosenstock details the man's substantial and ongoing involvement in developing and contributing to the national library. The final scene shows Jefferson opening a large book portraying modern and Colonial visitors mingling at the Library of Congress; a minor disappointment is that O'Brien drew generic bookcases instead of the splendid reading room. An author's note adds more information, including context for the fact that the author of the Declaration of Independence owned about 600 enslaved individuals throughout his life. This is a unique portrayal of the life and passions of the third president.—Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public LibraryCopyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.