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Bones in the White House: Thomas Jefferson's Mammoth

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A little-known, fascinating story about Thomas Jefferson and his obsessive quest to find America's first complete mastodon skeleton. Thomas Jefferson: Third president of the United States. Author of the Declaration of Independence. Obsessive prehistoric mammal hunter It's true! In this little-known slice of American history, see Thomas Jefferson as never before! In the l A little-known, fascinating story about Thomas Jefferson and his obsessive quest to find America's first complete mastodon skeleton. Thomas Jefferson: Third president of the United States. Author of the Declaration of Independence. Obsessive prehistoric mammal hunter It's true! In this little-known slice of American history, see Thomas Jefferson as never before! In the late 1700's, America was a new nation, with a vast west that held age-old secrets: Bones! Massive tusks and enormous animal skeletons were being discovered and Thomas Jefferson - politician AND scientist - was captivated. What were these giant beasts? Did they still roam on American soil? Jefferson needed to find out. Funding explorers, including the famed Lewis and Clark, Jefferson sought to find a complete prehistoric mastodon skeleton - one which would advance the young science of paleontology, but would also put this upstart young country on the world stage. Follow along on the incredible journey - full of triumphs and disappointments, discoveries and shipwrecks, ridicule and victory. Author Candice Ransom researched this amazing story for years before telling this tale, closely collaborating with Jefferson scholars and natural history experts. Jamey Christoph's moody, luminous illustrations paint the scene: A young country, a president with a thirst for knowledge, and an obsessive, years-long quest to find the prehistoric bones that would prove the importance of a growing nation.


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A little-known, fascinating story about Thomas Jefferson and his obsessive quest to find America's first complete mastodon skeleton. Thomas Jefferson: Third president of the United States. Author of the Declaration of Independence. Obsessive prehistoric mammal hunter It's true! In this little-known slice of American history, see Thomas Jefferson as never before! In the l A little-known, fascinating story about Thomas Jefferson and his obsessive quest to find America's first complete mastodon skeleton. Thomas Jefferson: Third president of the United States. Author of the Declaration of Independence. Obsessive prehistoric mammal hunter It's true! In this little-known slice of American history, see Thomas Jefferson as never before! In the late 1700's, America was a new nation, with a vast west that held age-old secrets: Bones! Massive tusks and enormous animal skeletons were being discovered and Thomas Jefferson - politician AND scientist - was captivated. What were these giant beasts? Did they still roam on American soil? Jefferson needed to find out. Funding explorers, including the famed Lewis and Clark, Jefferson sought to find a complete prehistoric mastodon skeleton - one which would advance the young science of paleontology, but would also put this upstart young country on the world stage. Follow along on the incredible journey - full of triumphs and disappointments, discoveries and shipwrecks, ridicule and victory. Author Candice Ransom researched this amazing story for years before telling this tale, closely collaborating with Jefferson scholars and natural history experts. Jamey Christoph's moody, luminous illustrations paint the scene: A young country, a president with a thirst for knowledge, and an obsessive, years-long quest to find the prehistoric bones that would prove the importance of a growing nation.

30 review for Bones in the White House: Thomas Jefferson's Mammoth

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarina

    Thomas Jefferson had always been interested in fossils. He was interested in one skeleton in particular: the wooly mammoth. That’s right, Thomas Jefferson was a connoisseur of fossils from the Ice Age. Eventually he even had fossils moved to the the White House. Look at me, trying to pretend that I care 😂 Straight up, I was not a fan of how this book used words like “monster” and “brute” to describe the mammoths. More importantly, I was not a fan of it presenting Western expansion as the United Thomas Jefferson had always been interested in fossils. He was interested in one skeleton in particular: the wooly mammoth. That’s right, Thomas Jefferson was a connoisseur of fossils from the Ice Age. Eventually he even had fossils moved to the the White House. Look at me, trying to pretend that I care 😂 Straight up, I was not a fan of how this book used words like “monster” and “brute” to describe the mammoths. More importantly, I was not a fan of it presenting Western expansion as the United States “needing more room to grow.” It conveniently forgot to mention that this “growing” was at the expense of the Indigenous peoples of America. It largely featured Thomas Jefferson in a heroic light, which felt off to me. He doesn’t get to be a hero for something as little as facilitating the discovery of fossils when he is part of a wrong as big as owning slaves.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*

    Bones in the White House: Thomas Jefferson’s Mammoth by Candice Ransom, illustrated by Jamey Christoph. PICTURE BOOK Doubleday Books (Random House), 2020. $18. 9780525646075 BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) – OPTIONAL AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE Thomas Jefferson always had a curiosity for bones and fossils. Jefferson was convinced that a mammoth was still alive somewhere in the world and went to great lengths to collect bones to form its full skeleton. Eventually enough bones were gathered, and it was con Bones in the White House: Thomas Jefferson’s Mammoth by Candice Ransom, illustrated by Jamey Christoph. PICTURE BOOK Doubleday Books (Random House), 2020. $18. 9780525646075 BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) – OPTIONAL AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE Thomas Jefferson always had a curiosity for bones and fossils. Jefferson was convinced that a mammoth was still alive somewhere in the world and went to great lengths to collect bones to form its full skeleton. Eventually enough bones were gathered, and it was constructed and displayed. What an interesting side story to Thomas Jefferson’s history. I loved the illustrations and the font is artistically arranged. There is an author’s note at the back that gives more history behind the mammoth’s skeleton. Unless you have a real fossil lover, the story isn’t very engaging beyond the basic idea that Jefferson believed there was a mammoth still roaming the earth. Reviewer, C. Peterson https://kissthebookjr.blogspot.com/20...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Virginia

    3.45? Lol I love reading informational picture books about Jefferson bc they’re all like ‘look at all this cool important stuff he did!!’ and then the back info pages are like ‘but we also need to talk about sally hemings’

  4. 5 out of 5

    Children's Bookshelf

    Came across this wonderful book in the library the other day. Instantly fell in love 😍 About Thomas Jefferson and his obsession with Mammoths and Mastodons. I didn’t realize he was so focused on paleontology and I must say upon discovering this book I read it front to back in fascination and then proceeded to google the Thomas Jefferson mammoth connection and found a bunch of interesting history about this. So naturally I read it with my 3rd graders and then taught them about mammoths and other Came across this wonderful book in the library the other day. Instantly fell in love 😍 About Thomas Jefferson and his obsession with Mammoths and Mastodons. I didn’t realize he was so focused on paleontology and I must say upon discovering this book I read it front to back in fascination and then proceeded to google the Thomas Jefferson mammoth connection and found a bunch of interesting history about this. So naturally I read it with my 3rd graders and then taught them about mammoths and other Pleistocene megafauna over the last 2 weeks. The book has been sitting on the classroom bookshelf the last few weeks and is hugely popular. The illustrations are great, also there’s something interesting about the animals from that period that never fails to spark one’s curiosity. I guess it’s because a lot of them are basically larger versions of animals that exist today and in that way are easier to imagine than the Dinosaurs for instance. Regardless I highly recommend introducing this lesser known part of Jefferson’s story to little one’s in your life, you might learn something too 😉

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jenni

    This nonfiction picture book discusses Thomas Jefferson's obsession with the Mammoth and his desire to collect bones of a Mammoth. It talks about how as a child Jefferson was interested in the fossils he found in the rocks from the Blue Ridge Mountains and continues in his interest in the bones of the Mammoths or Mastodons that were being found in Big Bone Lick in Kentucky. Jefferson even had a collection of bones that he stored in the East Room of the White House. The book is told in story form This nonfiction picture book discusses Thomas Jefferson's obsession with the Mammoth and his desire to collect bones of a Mammoth. It talks about how as a child Jefferson was interested in the fossils he found in the rocks from the Blue Ridge Mountains and continues in his interest in the bones of the Mammoths or Mastodons that were being found in Big Bone Lick in Kentucky. Jefferson even had a collection of bones that he stored in the East Room of the White House. The book is told in story format but does include end notes about Jefferson in History, the difference between a Mammoth and Mastodon, and what happened to Charles Wilson Peale's mammoth along with a bibliography for further reading on the back end pages of the book. This is a recommended purchase for libraries looking for more information about the beginnings of the study of palentology in the United States or need a different perspective on Thomas Jefferson.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Read Ribbet

    Ransom has selected an interesting aspect of Thomas Jefferson life to present the story of how uncovering fossils became an important area of science. Jefferson's fascination with the discovery of unknown beasts and wondering if they still existing in parts of the US that were yet unexplored by many. Readers watch as a the bones of a Mastodon/Mammoth are sent to an reassembled in the White House. Endnotes provide even more interesting information.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bethe

    Interesting, don’t remember seeing anything about Jefferson’s fascination with mammoths during a recent visit to Monticello. I knew he was keen on science. Now I have some new fossil destinations to visit. Good back matter, however formatting was awkward, info that should be part of the back matter was on the endpages.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Zoey

    What makes this interesting book about Thomas Jefferson's search for mammoths and prehistoric animals so most valuable is the back of the book where a history of Jefferson is clearly and honestly explained. It would not be fair to exclude the explanation that enslaved men were used as labor or that Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase came with consequence for the native Americans that lived there. Though there were many great things accomplished by our third president of the USA and children who love What makes this interesting book about Thomas Jefferson's search for mammoths and prehistoric animals so most valuable is the back of the book where a history of Jefferson is clearly and honestly explained. It would not be fair to exclude the explanation that enslaved men were used as labor or that Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase came with consequence for the native Americans that lived there. Though there were many great things accomplished by our third president of the USA and children who love bones and the great prehistoric creatures will enjoy learning about America's founder of paleontology; I most appreciated the well rounded (but age appropriate) look at who he was.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Doyle

    In this book we learn a little about Thomas Jefferson and his fascination with bones. He is interested in all sorts of fossils, but the mighty mammoth is the one that really has him captured. It is this fascination that has Jefferson pushing Lewis and Clark on their legendary journey and indeed, they send back many bones to the White House.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    This was interesting! I’d never heard any of this story before so I found it fascinating. I’d love to know what happened to Jefferson’s skeleton. How in the world can something so huge and old just disappear into thin air? 😂

  11. 5 out of 5

    Susan Morris

    Cool nonfiction account of Thomas Jefferson’s search for mammoth (actually mastodon) bones in America. I had no idea that the bones finally sent him from Big Bone Lick disappeared from UVA after 1848. Where are they?! (Library)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Kuipers

    Very interesting book, never knew about Jefferson's obsession with paleontology

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lisa D

    Loved it! What a beautiful and interesting book about the discovery of the wooly mammoth bones in the Roosevelt presidency ! Highly recommended!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    4 stars for this interesting side to the third president (and slaveholder)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cyril

    An interesting look at what America was like in Jefferson's time (with the notable exception of slavery, which is only mentioned in the back matter). A great read for kids who are into fossils.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mary Norell Hedenstrom

    Thomas Jefferson's lifelong study of America's large prehistoric bones.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I found that I have more questions than answers when I finished this book. I really wanted a picture, but that didn't exist until 2 or 3 decades later. Later, the bones were given to the University of Virginia. By then didn't they have pictures? What happened to those bones? What happened to the bones that sunk in the Mississippi River? Hasn't anyone tried to find them? It is an interesting subject and I am glad I read the book, but there is one other complaint. The book appears to be created wi I found that I have more questions than answers when I finished this book. I really wanted a picture, but that didn't exist until 2 or 3 decades later. Later, the bones were given to the University of Virginia. By then didn't they have pictures? What happened to those bones? What happened to the bones that sunk in the Mississippi River? Hasn't anyone tried to find them? It is an interesting subject and I am glad I read the book, but there is one other complaint. The book appears to be created with a crappy printer, so half of the letters disappear. Maybe this was a publication choice to fit with the era, but it annoys me as a reader.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary Retford

    I had no idea Thomas Jefferson was fascinated by Mammoth (and dinosaur) fossils! This was a delightful and informative read

  19. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    This one is a 3.5 for me. While many biographies about Thomas Jefferson abound, most of them cover his Presidency and his writing of the Declaration of Independence and other important colonial writings or his support of the Lewis and Clark Expedition to the West. This book is unique in that it explores his great interest in fossils, most notably those of what he thought of as a giant mammoth. Jefferson imagined that this creature might still roam the areas unexplored by whites in North America, This one is a 3.5 for me. While many biographies about Thomas Jefferson abound, most of them cover his Presidency and his writing of the Declaration of Independence and other important colonial writings or his support of the Lewis and Clark Expedition to the West. This book is unique in that it explores his great interest in fossils, most notably those of what he thought of as a giant mammoth. Jefferson imagined that this creature might still roam the areas unexplored by whites in North America, and he was desperate to have some of its bones. His curiosity and obsession are clearly described in this book as he entreated friends and explorers to find bones for him. Eventually, a farmer sold the bones Jefferson coveted to a member of the American Philosophical Society, and they were assembled for anyone interested to see. Jefferson himself got his own set of bones, which he examined in the East Room of the White House. The author is careful to point out additional facts about Jefferson and some of his peers, including their owning of slaves, and the assistance of at least one slave in putting the fossil bones together. The ink drawings, colored digitally, effectively complement the text while highlighting Jefferson's abiding passion for bones. Interestingly, what he thought to be a mammoth was actually a mastodon, according to the author. Anyone interested in this great man will find this book fascinating reading simply because it explores territory previously not explored in a book for young readers. I thought I knew all about Jefferson, but I didn't know all this. It's also worth pondering what became of those bones he sought so desperately since they've disappeared.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Ann

    Written in picture book format, this is an account of Thomas Jefferson's interest in paleontology. Large and lovely illustrations help tell the story of our third president's quest for ancient bones.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    The story of Thomas Jefferson's obsessive quest to find America's first complete mastodon skeleton.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Maisie

    Read this when it caught my eye while I was browsing my local bookstore. I am one who will almost never turn down a good historical picture book, and although I really liked it, it wasn’t as good as others I’ve read. I enjoyed the story (it’s always fun when I learn something new), and the illustrations are charming. If you or your child love history, Jeffersonia, or fossils, then this book is a perfect match.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Annese

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rin Farquhar

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura Molinario

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

  27. 4 out of 5

    Benji Martin

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bookish

  29. 5 out of 5

    Megan Fuller

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey Rick

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