Jurmain, S. T., & Day, L. (ill.) (2011). Worst of friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the true story of an American feud. New York: Dutton Children’s Books. ISBN: 9780525479031
Annotation: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were the best of friends, until a disagreement led to a feud that separated them for years, but their reconciliation shows that true friendship can withstand anything.
Reaction: I really enjoyed the message about friendship in this book, and the way Jefferson and Adams were able to salvage their relationship and remain friends until their dying day. I also like the reminder that these influential men in US history were also regular people who had friends and fights and who all knew each other. I think it’s easy, for me at least, to forget that all the men who helped found our nation were connected, since they are such legendary, mythic figures in our history and classes rarely examine their lives beyond the war.
I really enjoyed the art in this book. Day also illustrated Duel (which has a much unhappier ending), for which he used ink with watercolor and goauche, and, though the media used isn’t listed on the copyright page, the pictures in this book appear to be similarly done. I love the way he humanizes these great men, and the comical way he portrays their feud, with each man drawing ugly stick figures of the other and how Adams very solemnly stomps on his wig in anger. I just love imagining him doing that in real life with that exact expression on his face.
I don’t generally read nonfiction for pleasure, but I am interested in seeking out more information about the friendship and feud between these two men. Those Rebels, John & Tom is another picture book that looks at the beginnings of their relationship.
I would use this book as part of a 5th grade history unit. The class could discover and examine other famous friendships, such the one between Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart.
This book is on my Top Ten Favorites list for this class.
Media Used: In an email reply, Days says, ” I do evrything by hand. I only use a computer to scan and send to the publisher. I start off drawing with a Wolff pencil, following my own rough drawings as a guide. A Wolff pencil is a carbon based pencil. I like the rich bold black line it produces. I then paint with watercolors on 300lb cold press watercolor paper. Either Arches or Twinrocker white watercolor paper, which is handmade. I often use white gouache, permanent white…to correct mistakes. ”