- Jefferson Measures a Moose by Mara Rockliff
Rockliff, Mara Jefferson Measures a Moose; illus. by S. D. Schindler. Candlewick, 2020 [48p] Trade ed. ISBN 9780763694104 $17.99 Reviewed from galleys R 6-9 yrs
Founding Father Thomas Jefferson was, notably, a citizen scientist, who documented numbers of all kinds of weights, measures, and times. When famed French naturalist Buffon (fully, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon) claimed that everything in America (where he'd never been) was puny and weak, the nettled Jefferson amassed data into a book to prove him wrong. Buffon remained unimpressed by figures, so Jefferson determined to send him a moose. Unfortunately, the moose carcass arrived in France the worse for wear, but even more unfortunately, Buffon died without ever seeing it. On the fortunate side, Americans loved Jefferson's book, Notes on the State of Virginia. This takes a different tack from Clickard's Thomas Jefferson and the Mammoth Hunt (BCCB 12/18), focusing on Jefferson's Enlightenment-typical focus on data and using the moose mostly as an exemplar. Rockliff's well-paced, wryly funny narration is enjoyable as well as informative (if Buffon "believed in chirpless chickadees and puny pigs, then so would everybody else"). Schindler's familiar gravely humorous delicacy, in line and watercolor that sometimes echoes wood engraving with its hatching, is perfectly suited to the personable recounting of a polite historical feud. This would be a boon to early math classes or discussions about the importance of data, but it also serves as offbeat entertainment. Copious end matter expands on the story, provides answers to the questions Jefferson asks himself in the narrative, and includes lists of both primary and secondary sources.