A Founding Father's Secret Children
By Kimberly Bradley
Dial Books, Hardcover, 9780803734999, 368pp.
Publication Date: September 15, 2011
List Price: $17.99*
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Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston are Thomas Jefferson's children by one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, and while they do get special treatment - better work, better shoes, even violin lessons - they are still slaves, and are never to mention who their father is. The lighter-skinned children have been promised a chance to escape into white society, but what does this mean for the children who look more like their mother? As each child grows up, their questions about slavery and freedom become tougher, calling into question the real meaning of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Told in three parts from the points of view of three of Jefferson's slaves - Beverly, Madison, and a third boy close to the Hemings family - these engaging and poignant voices shed light on what life was like as one of Jefferson's invisible offspring.
* “A big, serious work of historical investigation and imagination; the tale has never before been told this well.”
-Kirkus, starred review
* “[an] eye-opening and powerful novel.”
-The Horn Book, starred review
* “Bradley’s fine characterization and cinematic prose breathe life into this tragic story.”
-School Library Journal, starred review
* “Bradley’s sensitive and richly imagined vision pays respect to those who struggled for lives of stability and dignity, even as the whims and fortunes of the Jeffersons shifted beneath them.”
-Bulletin of the Center for Childrens Books, starred review
“This well-researched and moving novel provides insight into their lives as it raises important and difficult questions.”
-American Library Association
“The young innocents’ elemental questions raise fundamental issues for the reader. How could founding father Jefferson sell off Maddy’s best friend? What does it mean, ‘all people are created equal?’”