Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Historical fiction
What did you like about the book? This is a powerful historical fiction memoir of James Hemings, whom historians believe to be a son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Although Jefferson never directly acknowledged his paternity, Hemings and his siblings were freed upon Jefferson’s death, having lived the lives of enslaved persons. The author imagines the interactions with Jefferson based on known events. The thoughtful telling of the memoir in the voice of the adult Hemings is respectful of Jefferson, while acknowledging the hypocrisy of slavery, which Jefferson publicly decried. The tone of the writing is narrative, and not preachy, nor talking down to a children’s audience. The realistic acrylic illustrations are evocative of Hemings memories as an adult, and picture life at Monticello as two distinct societies, that of a privileged white family and the enslaved people, both family and not. This is a stellar addition to units on the founding fathers and mothers of the American republic.
To whom would you recommend this book? I would recommend this to older children, 7 and up, and teachers, as part of a curriculum on America, post Revolutionary War.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and middle schools and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Picture books for older readers
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: December 1, 2016