Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything
by Maira Kalman
"If you want to understand this country and its people and what it means to be optimistic and complex and tragic and wrong and courageous, you need to go to Monticello."
- Maira Kalman, Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty
and the Pursuit of Everything
“[Kalman’s] exuberant Matisse-like style, eye for unusual detail, and disarming bluntness enliven her breezy and typically offbeat life of Thomas Jefferson… Her book is hypnotically charming, abounding with striking little details that children will remember.” - The New York Times
Join Maira Kalman at Monticello on Saturday, February 15
This President’s Day Weekend, join renowned artist illustrator, and writer Maira Kalman at Monticello for a children's art activity related to the launch of her new book, Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything! Kalman will share her creativity and vision with young artists, and a selection of original art by Kalman will be on exhibit. Festivities begin at the Visitor’s Center at 2 pm on Saturday, February 15. This event is free and open to the public. Kalman’s new book is now available for sale at the Shop at Monticello.
Kalman was born in Tel Aviv and moved to New York with her family at the age of four. She was raised in bucolic Riverdale, the Bronx. She now lives in Manhattan.
She has written and illustrated thirteen children's books, including Ooh-la-la-Max in Love, What Pete Ate, and Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John Jay Harvey. Her most recent children's book, 13 WORDS (Harper's) was a collaboration with Lemony Snicket.
She is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker Magazine, and is well known for her collaboration with Rick Meyerowitz on the "New Yorkistan" cover in 2001. Maira is currently creating an illustrated column for The New Yorker based on travels to museums and libraries.
Recent projects include illustrating Strunk and White's classic The Elements of Style. A small opera based on the text was composed by Nico Muhly. She has created two monthly online columns for the New York Times. The first, The Principles of Uncertainty (2006-07), was a narrative journal of her life. The second, And The Pursuit of Happiness (2009) was a year-long exploration of American History and democracy beginning with a story on the inauguration of Barack Obama. Both columns are now collected in book form, published by the Penguin Press.
Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything is the newest children’s book by renowned artist, illustrator, and writer Maira Kalman. Kalman described the process of writing this book as an exciting learning experience.
“I knew very little about Thomas Jefferson before I started to work on my book. I consider not knowing an asset.
Then I am guided by curiosity, passion, humor and a desire to find out what is compelling in the story.
With Jefferson there is no end to compelling. And complex.
His complexity is his beauty, including his flaws and monumental faults.
That is the sum of a human being.
The story that I am telling is how people strive. How they try, and sometimes utterly fail, to make sense of this world.
Looking at the lives of the founders has given me renewed respect for their extraordinary achievement.
They forged a new world based on ideas and ideals.
Today we can walk around beautiful Monticello and ponder all that was created at that time. Lucky us.”
Reviews for Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything
“[Kalman’s] exuberant Matisse-like style, eye for unusual detail, and disarming bluntness enliven her breezy and typically offbeat life of Thomas Jefferson… Kalman, a subtle but shrewd moralizer, is right on the mark in summarizing Jefferson as “optimistic and complex and tragic and wrong and courageous.” Her book is hypnotically charming, abounding with striking little details that children will remember.”
(The New York Times)
“Beautiful and a little sad: the complex, brilliant, flawed nature of the third U.S. president. . . . Rich, impressionist colors and lively lines. . . . Poetic presentation. . . . Conveys clearly [Jefferson’s] contribution to the growing nation as founding father and president. . . . Kalman’s intimate address to listeners and readers works well. . . . Impressive complexity put artfully and respectfully within the grasps of young readers.”
(Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW)
“Striking picture book biography. . . . A colloquial, occasionally arch, and whimsical narrative, heavy with historical import and dotted with trivia. The vibrant imagery, frank content, and disarming language combine in a nuanced portrait that respects its subject and its audience in equal measure. At a time when the Founding Fathers are invoked frequently as heroes of lost, black-and-white propriety, a biography of such candor is welcome indeed. Direct, objective author’s notes about the people and places involved round out this substantial offering.”
(The Horn Book)
“Kalman dwells in conflict and raises questions to the end, pronouncing Monticello a symbol of all that is ‘optimistic and complex and tragic and wrong and courageous’ about America.”