Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Random Shelf: Biography

There are some biographies that read just as well as any novel, and then there are those that are "just the facts, ma'am." A good children's biography section has a mixture of both types.

American Lives: Thomas Jefferson is a "just the facts, ma'am" type of biography. While it's not something I would read for pleasure, it's definitely something I would check out if I were writing a short report on Thomas Jefferson, and if I were a new reader. Rick Burke does touch on some of the controversies in Jefferson's life (the fact that he did own slaves, but doesn't mention the more sensitive topics) at the beginning, but this is mainly a catalogue of Jefferson's achievements, from politics to inventions. A basic biography runs the risk of oversimplifying things, but only one instance of oversimplification struck me as being a little odd (Burr kills Hamilton because Hamilton "had said mean things about Burr at a party"). Other than that, this is a solid basic biography of Thomas Jefferson, including a glossary and index.

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