Don't Know Much About Thomas Jefferson


  • What did young Thomas Jefferson think of slavery?
  • How long did it take him to write the Declaration of Independence?
  • What was unusual about Jefferson's home, Monticello?

As author of the Declaration of Independence and as third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson shaped our young nation. Read about his childhood in rural Virginia. Discover his talent for ...

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  • What did young Thomas Jefferson think of slavery?
  • How long did it take him to write the Declaration of Independence?
  • What was unusual about Jefferson's home, Monticello?

As author of the Declaration of Independence and as third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson shaped our young nation. Read about his childhood in rural Virginia. Discover his talent for designing a beautiful home. Learn how this complex man fought for cherished liberties both at home and abroad -- yet insisted on keeping slaves until his death.

Bestselling author Kenneth C. Davis reveals the life of a brilliant thinker whose work still impacts America today. Maps, reproductions from the period, and spirited black-and-white illustrations by Rob Shepperson illuminate the revolutionary times in which Jefferson lived.

Examines the childhood and youth, education, law career, family life, and presidency of Abraham Lincoln.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-This book presents biographical information in a lively, question-and-answer format. Davis discusses major events in the development of the United States, how Jefferson's views on democracy and freedom played an important part in its creation, his service as president, and his numerous talents and contributions in other fields. The fluid text is enhanced by sidebars that offer additional information and definitions; a combination of charming line drawings and historical reproductions, black-and-white photos, and maps; and numerous contemporary quotes. This accessible volume brings to life the history and energy of the period.-Susan Shaver, Hemingford Public Schools, NE Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064421287
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
  • Publication date: 1/4/2005
  • Series: Don't Know Much About Series
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 7.56 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times best-selling author of Don't Know Much About® History, Don't Know Much About® Geography, Don't Know Much About® The Civil War, and Don't Know Much About® The Bible.

People magazine has said that "Reading [Davis] is like returning to the classroom of the best teacher you ever had."

A frequent visitor to classrooms and teacher groups, Davis has appeared often on The Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, National Public Radio, and many other television and radio shows. He is a contributing editor to USA Weekend, which features his Don't Know Much About® quizzes on a variety of subjects.

Born and educated in Mt. Vernon, New York, he now lives in New York City and Vermont with his wife, Joann, and their two children, Jenny and Colin.

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First Chapter

Chapter One

A Boy Named Slow

What was Sitting Bull like as a baby?

When he was born, his name wasn't Sitting Bull. Like most Lakota, Sitting Bull had more than one name during his life. A name says who someone is, so when you do something important or something important happens to you, your name changes.

Sitting Bull was named Jumping Badger when he was born, but soon people called him "Slow." The name wasn't an insult. It meant he was thoughtful, careful, and maybe a little stubborn.

"I was born on the Missouri River," Sitting Bull once said. "At least I recollect that somebody told me so." He doesn't remember what year he was born either. That was not important to the Lakota. Historians think he was born in 1831 or maybe later, in what is now Bullhead, South Dakota.

Were Sitting Bull's parents named Mr. and Mrs. Bull?

Slow's father was named Returns-Again-to-Strike-the-Enemy. He was a respected warrior who owned many horses. His mother was named Mixed-Day (later named Her-Holy-Door), and his older sister was named Many-Feathers. But a Lakota family wasn't just mom and dad and the kids. Slow called all his father's brothers and male cousins "father," too. His mother's sisters and women cousins were his "mothers." A Lakota family was big. And his whole big family was glad to have him. "A child is the greatest gift from Wakantanka [the Great Mysterious]," say the Lakota.

Where was Sitting Bull's home?

Sitting Bull lived in his mother's tipi (women owned the tipis), but "home" was his big family and a few other families they traveled with. They would meet up with other Lakota for part ofthe summer. In the coldest part of winter, they would choose one place to camp. The rest of the year they followed the buffalo herds. Not just the hunters, everyone. Horses dragged travois loaded with tipis, clothes, food, and buffalo robes. All that moving around was one reason Lakota didn't own much. It's also a reason they loved their land so much. They traveled all over their beautiful land, and it was all home.

What was Slow's life like when he was a baby?

Baby Slow stayed in his cradle for most of the first six months or more of his life. It was kind of a deerskin baby-backpack that could be attached to a flat wooden board.

Except at night, when he slept between his parents, Slow didn't spend much time on his back. There were no cribs for Lakota babies. While his mother worked, she could lean the cradleboard on a tree or hang it from a tipi pole. Slow could look straight out -- not up -- so he could be with his people right from the start, learning to be Lakota. He learned it very well.

What kind of diapers did Slow wear?

Slow wore a kind of disposable diaper. His cradle was stuffed with dry moss or animal hair. A little hole at the bottom of the cradle let pee drip out. Slow's mother would wash and oil him and change his moss diaper. He could kick and wiggle then.

After Slow outgrew his cradle, he would wander around with no diaper. In fact, in the summer he wouldn't wear anything at all.

What could Slow see from his cradle?

He watched his mother and the other women scrape buffalo hides with a bone scraper and tan the leather and sew it into robes, clothes, and even new tipis when needed. He watched them cook stew in a bag made from a buffalo's stomach. They put in meat and water and roots and then cooked it by putting hot rocks in. Slow's mother might have had a metal pot if his father had gotten one from a white trader. Slow watched his big sister help the women and play with her doll and toy tipi. He saw the women dig up wild potatoes and onions and he would smell the fresh dirt as they dug. He could see and smell the fire, too. It would be in the middle of the tipi in the winter (the smoke went out a hole in the top) and outside in the summer.

He could smell the family's best horses tethered close to the tipi at night so enemies couldn't steal them. He'd see his father and uncles and cousins fixing arrows and painting buffalo hides. And dogs running everywhere, and people talking everywhere, and singing sometimes and dancing, before and after a battle or a buffalo hunt. In some camps he could see Lakota hunting lands in all directions, all the way to the horizon.

And he could sleep, if he liked, and pee, and do all the things babies do -- except cry.

Why didn't Lakota babies cry?

Mothers took their children to a safe place during an enemy attack, and a crying baby might tell the enemy where the family was hiding. Mari Sandoz, a little white girl who grew up with Lakota neighbors, once saw a Lakota friend's new baby brother. When the baby started to cry, its mother pinched its nose closed and covered its mouth for a moment and sang very quietly to it. She would do that again anytime the baby cried. Mari thought this was a great idea. (But she didn't try this with her brothers and sisters, and NEITHER SHOULD YOU. A baby can't breathe with its nose and mouth shut.)

Don't Know Much About Sitting Bull. Copyright © by Kenneth Davis. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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