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Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the True Story of an American Feud

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John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were good friends with very different personalities. But their differing views on how to run the newly created United States turned them into the worst of friends. They each became leaders of opposing political parties, and their rivalry followed them to the White House. Full of both history and humor, this is the story of two of America's most well-known presidents and how they learned to put their political differences aside for the sake of ...
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John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were good friends with very different personalities. But their differing views on how to run the newly created United States turned them into the worst of friends. They each became leaders of opposing political parties, and their rivalry followed them to the White House. Full of both history and humor, this is the story of two of America's most well-known presidents and how they learned to put their political differences aside for the sake of friendship.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As in their George Did It, these smartly paired collaborators offer a behind-the-public-persona look at American patriots. In zingy prose, Jurmain tells how Thomas Jefferson and John Adams “were as different as pickles and ice cream” (the former was tall, thin, and quiet; the latter short, round, and loquacious). Yet she emphasizes that the two were best friends who worked together to shape America before parting ways when Jefferson backed the Republicans and Adams the Federalists. Entertaining anecdotes about both presidents’ personal and political lives are energized by Day’s lightly caricatured watercolor cartoons, which flesh out their personalities. Day depicts some scenarios with humorous exaggeration, as when Jefferson grabs Adams’s coattails to keep him from pummeling King George, and Adams stealthily carts his possessions out of the White House on the morning of Jefferson’s inauguration. In a heartwarming denouement, the two end an 11-year silence when Adams pens a conciliatory letter to Jefferson, later admitting, “You... had as good a right to your opinion as I had to mine.” This entertaining and character-driven slice of history also offers a clear message about friendship. Ages 6–8. (Dec.)
Children's Literature - Cynthia Levinson
Though John Adams and Thomas Jefferson looked entirely different—Adams was short and fat, Jefferson, tall and slender—and had different personalities—Adams was a loquacious jokester and Jefferson, a shy violinist—they were best of friends. Until they were not. They not only crafted the Declaration of Independence together but also traveled to Europe after the Revolution to solicit funds for the fledgling country. However, their differing views of the office of the president drove them apart, with Adams arguing for a sovereign-like leader and Jefferson arguing for a weaker one. Their disagreements grew when Adams was elected president and Jefferson his vice-president, infuriating their Federalist and Republican Party followers. Eventually, they stopped speaking. Only in old age did they finally reconcile. Illustrated with charming cartoon-like drawings that convey their personalities and pastimes, this nonfiction picture book tells tales of early America-in-the-making and also makes the point that best friends can have serious disagreements that lead to years-long separations but, in the end, make up. Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—Many children know about our second and third presidents, but do they know that those men had a tumultuous friendship that spanned the beginning years of the United States? Cleverly humanizing them, Jurmain demonstrates that fractious politics are not a new phenomenon in America. The two men were best friends throughout the 1770s and '80s, helping to form a new nation. Problems began around 1790 when their different ideas about how the government should work caused a fissure. In 1797, they ran against each other for office. Although Adams became president and Jefferson vice-president, they each represented a different political party. Disagreements between the Republicans and the Federalists led to anger and even violence. After Jefferson became president in 1801, the distance between them grew even larger. Late in their lives, however, a truce was reached. From 1812 to their deaths on the same day, July 4, 1826, Adams and Jefferson maintained a warm correspondence. Day's watercolor-and-ink illustrations brilliantly add humor to the narrative. The design is ambitious and effective. The cover contains elements of the American flag framing Jefferson and Adams angrily arguing. Inside, the illustrations vary between full page and divided panels. Some backgrounds are white; others are filled in with details or a simple color wash. Spreads have scenes of high dramatic emphasis. Especially for Presidents' Day or as a vehicle for discussing friendship issues, Worst of Friends is a winner.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Though John Adams and Thomas Jefferson "...were as different as pickles and ice cream," they were able to work together to fight for America's independence—for a while. In the late 1770s, they developed conflicting ideas about government and aligned with opposing political parties. When John Adams was elected as the second U.S. president, Jefferson was elected vice president. This exacerbated their rocky relationship, and when Jefferson was ultimately elected president over Adams, their friendship ended. Over a decade would pass before they spoke again. The team that created George Did It (2005) now brings to light both the trials and tribulations of these two notable leaders and the turbulence of early American politics. Energetic watercolor-and-pencil drawings accurately represent the late 18th century, showing the dress, style and architecture of the period. Feisty narration paired with amusing illustrations makes light of sticky situations, as when Jefferson physically restrains an angry Adams from assaulting King George and Adams moves himself out of the White House in the dead of night. Although quotations are not specifically sourced, the selected bibliography reveals a wealth of research, including several primary sources. A pleasingly lucid look at a complicated relationship, it should prove revelatory to an audience unaccustomed to such nuance. (Informational picture book. 6-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525479031
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/8/2011
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 188,068
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 920L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Besides being an award-winning author, Suzanne Tripp Jurmain was a child and teen actor appearing in many television shows and soap operas. She is currently a freelance writer and editor and lives in Los Angeles, California.

Larry Day ( is an award-winning illustrator. He also works as a storyboardist at a large advertising agency. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 20, 2013

    An enjoyable and readable history of the relationship between Th

    An enjoyable and readable history of the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Reads like a story rather than a bunch of facts.

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