HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Jefferson’s Masterpiece: The Story of the Declaration of Independence for Young Readers
Author: Dennis Parker
Cover Designer: Beverly Elmore Parker
Publisher: Lighting Source, second edition published in 2013
Related website: http://www.jeffersonsmasterpiece.com/ (author)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 11-15 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Parker, Dennis. Jefferson’s Masterpiece: The Story of the Declaration of Independence for Young Readers (published in 2010 by CreateSpace). How did the founding document of our nation known as “The Declaration of Independence” come about? Jefferson’s Masterpiece is a narrative account of why and how the Declaration of Independence was written and approved. It begins on Tuesday, June 11, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia, PA, asks a Committee of Five, consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson, to write a statement that would accompany the Virginia Resolution and clearly set forth the colonies’ reasons for breaking ties with the government of Great Britain, and Jefferson is chosen to set it down on paper. Then it follows the future President as he writes the Declaration of Independence; carries out his daily activities; observes the Congress in its votes to declare Independence and then to edit the Declaration; and learns about the military struggles between the colonies and Great Britain.
The story includes the events of July 4, 1776, when the vote to accept Jefferson’s work is taken. And finally, it ends on August 2, 1776, when the newly adopted Declaration is signed. Exactly, what is the importance of this document to the history of the United States? The 19th Annual Writer’ Digest Self-Published Book Awards described Jefferson’s Masterpiece as “a well written, very informational book” that “makes history fun for young readers.” It is important to understand the Publisher’s Note: “This is a work of fiction based on historical facts. The main characters, events and places were real. Fictional characters have been added to enrich the story. Some of the dialog is based on writings and speeches of the real people and some is the product of the author’s imagination.” However, this book would be a wonderful resource to help middle school and even older students learn more of the details about this very significant part of our country’s founding in a format that will appeal to them.
There are several appendices which will increase the volume’s value as a historical study. These include a timeline from 1764 through 1776 of events leading up to the Revolution; a biography of Thomas Jefferson; facts, biographies, and the fate of the signers; the significance of the Declaration; and its evolution from Jefferson’s “rough draught” to the final copy. Copiously illustrated with various portraits, period drawings, some maps, and a few photographs, it would be useful in either a classroom or homeschool setting. Also, a free, downloadable teacher’s guide is available at the book’s website. The copy I read was a first edition, but the author wrote me, saying, “A second edition was published in 2013 because I changed printers; a few small corrections were made. The book is now printed by Lighting Source and distributed by Ingram.” Author Dennis Parker, who earned his degree in political science at North Carolina State University, has focused on communications in his career as a writer, editor, press secretary, communications director, and publisher. His first book Nick & Sadie, published in 2009, is a Christmas story of “what ifs.” I highly recommend Jefferson’s Masterpiece.