Review of Thomas Jefferson’s Battle for Science: Bias, Truth, and a Mighty Moose!

Thomas Jefferson’s Battle for Science: Bias, Truth, and a Mighty Moose! Thomas Jefferson’s Battle for Science: Bias, Truth, and a Mighty Moose!
by Beth Anderson; illus. by Jeremy Holmes
Primary, Intermediate    Calkins/Astra    48 pp.
5/24    9781635926200    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781635928624    $11.99

As a product of the Age of Reason, Thomas Jefferson was long fascinated by science in general and the natural world in particular. Consequently, when he first read a French encyclopedia by the renowned scientist Comte de Buffon that declared the American colonies inferior because the native animals were neither as large nor as ferocious as their European counterparts, Jefferson questioned Buffon’s reasoning—partly because of the audacious comments, partly because of national pride, and partly because Jefferson did not want to discourage immigration. For years he challenged these assumptions by asking questions; creating counterarguments; conducting experiments (which included the shipping of a dead moose to France to verify its large size); and formulating and publishing his conclusions. In other words, he followed the scientific method, nicely summarized in the back matter. The mixed-media illustrations, crafted with woodblocks and pencil, are highlighted in unusual and effective layouts. The written narrative appears in text boxes, acting either as previews for the often-humorous illustrations (for example, ideas explode from Jefferson’s head as he writes his own book challenging Buffon) or as comic panels. A concluding author’s note explains the sources and dangers of misinformation and ways to identify and combat such rumors, as well as a timeline of Jefferson’s life and a bibliography—appropriately, for the topic—divided into primary and secondary sources.

From the May/June 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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