April 16, 2012

Those Rebels, John & Tom by Barbara Kerley

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 1:22 am by suebe2

Those Rebels, John and Tom
by Barbara Kerley
illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
AR 6.3

First things first — this book is one that everyone should read.  It teaches so much about U.S. history but it is also an astonishing lesson, without being preachy, about how to work together.

From childhood on, John Adams did things.  The wrestled, he boxed, he swam and few kites.  He was your quintessential rowdy boy.  Like many boys today, his favorite class would have been recess.

Thomas Jefferson on the other hand skipped recess to study Greek grammar.  He did things too but the things he loved were very different — reading, studying, dancing and playing the violin.  He was a gentleman through and through.

Both became lawyers but even there they had very different styles.  Adams loved arguing cases in the courtroom and would do so for hours at a time.  Jefferson hated speaking in public and, when forced to do so, was so quiet that people had a hard time hearing him.

But they were both passionate about the American colonies.  They saw a world of possibilities being held down by King George.

At first, the two man only noticed how different they were.  One short and outspoken.  The other tall and oh-so quiet.  But as they came to know each other they recognized their common patriotism.  They also came to believe that they could accomplish much more working together then they could working alone.  In the end, they convinced the delegates to sign the Declaration of Independence.

This is truly an amazing story.  Many of us tend to think if the delegates en mass, one group working together and with many things in common.  This helped me to see the many differences that would have existed between the delegates — differences in their families, their economic backgrounds and even their personalities.  And, most of all, it was a lesson in how very different people could be and still succeed in reaching a common goal.

With a sixth grade reading level, it should be no surprise that this text is long — just over 2000 words.  But, as should be clear from the subject matter, it isn’t for preschoolers and it in no way feels long.

Fotheringham’s striking illustrations reminded me vaguely of the School House Rock cartoons.  The style isn’t the same but both are colorful and expressive.

Pick this one up and see where the discussion that follows takes you.



  1. Who would have thought that John Adams would be a rowdy young lad? Did this story just go up to the Declaration of Independence?

  2. suebe2 said,

    The Declaration was the focus although there was a bit on their travels together. I didn’t learn much about Jefferson but I had never pictured Adams as a boy’s boy. He actually came across as pretty abrasive as well as aware that that was how people saw him.

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