Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

Have you ever wondered why the main Library of Congress building in Washington, D.C. is named for Thomas Jefferson?


If you pick up the picture book Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by John O’Brien you will find out. It is a whirlwind tour of Thomas Jefferson’s life through the lens of his obsession with books.


Thomas Jefferson started reading at an early age. According to the book, people say he had read his father’s entire very grownup library of 49 books before he went to school, probably around six years old. He spent the rest of his life reading and collecting books on a wide variety of topics and from a wide variety of sources.

During his presidency, Thomas Jefferson supported the Library of Congress, which was in its infancy. He supplied it with a number of books from his own collection. When it was burned down by the British in 1814, he went back into his personal collection at Monticello and sent some 6,500 books to restore the library. He was given some money for this, but not what the books were worth.

To honor his contribution, in 1980 the main building that houses the Library of Congress was renamed the Thomas Jefferson Building. Inside on the second floor is a room filled with more than 2000 of Thomas Jefferson’s original books. Personal note:  Have you ever been there? I thought it was a bibliophile’s dream and well worth a visit.

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library is a fast-paced book, fun to read to young children. It contains many interesting sidebars, which will entice the reader to learn more with each reading. There is also a useful author’s note and bibliography with source notes in the back matter. Because of course, you will want to read more after hearing about Thomas Jefferson’s books!

In addition to being ideal for a history lesson about Thomas Jefferson, this book also celebrates reading and literacy. It is a must if you are going to visit Washington, especially the Library of Congress. The bottom line is you will definitely want a copy for your own library.

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library  book trailer:

Doesn’t the fife and drum music suit the fast paced text of the book?

Age Range: 8 – 11 years
Grade Level: 3 – 6
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Calkins Creek (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590789326
ISBN-13: 978-1590789322

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Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. Join us at the new Nonfiction Monday blog.

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