Jefferson Measures a Moose, by Mara Rockliff & S.D. Schindler

My author friend Linda Skeers is always on the lookout for great nonfiction picture books, and when she brought this one to our Whispering Woods Picture Book Retreat/Workshop last month, I liked it so much I had to buy my own copy.

How often does that happen? Not often. But I love an engaging, well-written historical pb, and this one ticks all the boxes for me. Here’s a bit from the publisher’s description:

“Thomas Jefferson was wild about numbers. He was constantly counting, measuring, and observing things that caught his interest. He loved sharing his discoveries and reading the discoveries of others. But when a famous Frenchman published a book about America, Jefferson was appalled: all the information in the book was wrong. The author insisted that America was a wretched, dismal place, where birds could not sing, dogs could not bark, and everything and everyone was puny and weak.”

Can you imagine how those claims–made by someone who’d never visited America–would rankle Thomas Jefferson … or any proud American?

(Sorry, took this photo with my phone.)

Let’s back up a sec. I had no idea Jefferson was a numbers nut, but Mara Rockliff does a beautiful job of SHOWing readers his obsession, jumping right to the point on page 1: “Thomas Jefferson loved asking questions about NUMBERS.” She proceeds to illuminate us with a series of kid-friendly examples, like: “He knew how much it cost to see a monkey and how hot it was in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.”

To counter Buffon’s ignorance, Jefferson wrote his own book that included real, true measurements and information about America. He even had a friend show it to the French author. Didn’t change the guy’s mind. Did Jefferson give up? Nope. To say he went to absurd lengths to prove his point would be an understatement. It wasn’t just American pride at stake, though. According to Rockliff’s author’s note: “If they thought nothing good came from America, then they would not be interested in trade agreements.” Or lending us money. Or moving to such an inhospitable place. A lot on the line!

I’m not going to give away the whole book, but really, DO find a copy and take a look for yourself. It’s charming, fast-moving, and uses science to disprove misconceptions.

From Candlewick Press.

Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum has been picture book crazy since her 3 kids were little, and especially so after her first was published in 2004 (Stink Soup). Recent titles: Bird Girl - Gene Stratton-Porter Shares Her Love of Nature With the World, Parrotfish Has a Superpower, Stinkbird Has a Superpower, Sea Turtle Swims, Kangaroo Hops, Jack Knight's Brave Flight, We Love Babies!, Where'd My Jo Go?, Frog Boots, How to Grow a Dinosaur, Frankenbunny, If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party, Elwood Bigfoot– Wanted: Birdie Friends!, Teeny Tiny Toady, I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, and more. Coming in 2025: Polecat Has a Superpower!, It's Corn-Picking Time!, Giraffe Runs. She's also the author of many nonfiction books for young readers, as well as an early graphic reader series, Thunder & Cluck. Learn more at


  1. Thanks for the great review, Jill! Now I need to get a copy to find out the ending!

  2. SO interesting! Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Absolutely fascinating! Especially for a history buff like me!

  4. I love this book! Humor, interesting facts, fun writing — woo-hoo! Thanks for giving it a shout out!

  5. This looks delightful! Thank you!

  6. I Definitely want to read this book….how amazing and how important…Thank you for writing it:)

  7. Thanks for sharing with us! It sounds fascinating!

  8. I will be sure to read this to a 4th grade class. I love “a numbers nut.”

  9. Susan R. Apps-Bodilly

    I am looking forward to sharing this book with kids!

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