Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Founding Fathers! Those Horse-Ridin', Fiddle-Playin', Book-Readin', Gun-Toti

The Founding Fathers! Those Horse-Ridin', Fiddle-Playin', Book-Readin', Gun-Toti

Jonah Winter
Illustrator:  Barry Blitt 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Simon and Schuster, 2015   ISBN: 978-1442442740

Often, when people mention “the Founding Fathers,” they make sweeping generalizations. They claim that the men who made up this select ‘club’ were alike, were united, were good, were bad, were perfect, were… and so it goes on. The truth of the matter is that the Founding Fathers were very different people who, like the rest of us, had gifts and talents, problems and vices. They did things that did not make sense, and other things that were remarkable. They were high-minded, and hypocritical.

One thing that is not debatable is that all the men were exceptionally intelligent, which meant that many of them were arrogant and stubborn. This often led to arguments, and getting the Founding Fathers to compromise and agree was not easy. In fact, it is something of a miracle that they were able to found the United States at all. But they did. They did something amazing when they created the United States of America, and at the same time they also “created a lot of problems for future generations to solve.” Their creation is still “a work in progress,” but it has stood the test of time for many years and will hopefully continue to do so for many more.

Since the Founding Father were such a “motely bunch of characters,” it behooves us to step away from our preconceived notions of who they were and to get to know them a little. We owe them that, and perhaps learning about them will help us better understand why the United States is the way it is today.

We begin, as we probably should, with George Washington. In addition to being a general and the first president of the United States, this big man (who loved to dance) was a fearless soldier, but a cautious politician. Like so many of his fellow Founding Fathers, George Washington was opposed to slavery and yet he personally owned many.

Thomas Jefferson also owned slaves, but his stance on the institution was conflicted. He spoke out against it publically, but privately he was for it, perhaps because he needed slaves to manage his property in Virginia. Unlike George Washington Thomas Jefferson was well educated, a graduate of William and Mary College. He spoke many languages and was interested in architecture, science, farming, and so much more.

Like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin was an intellectual, a Renaissance man. It would even be fair to say that he was a genius. He was a lifelong scholar who strongly believed that it was his duty to give his life to public service, which he did as a diplomat, a politician, a soldier, an early abolitionist, and the founder of the first American public library and the first volunteer fire department. Unlike George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin freed the few slaves he had.

As they read their way through this incredibly rich and illuminating book, readers will come to appreciate how often dissimilar and diverse the Founding Fathers were. They men came from different backgrounds, had different viewpoints, and often clashed, and yet together they managed to found a country.