Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the True Story of an American Feud by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain. Illustrated by Larry Day. Dutton Children’s Books, 2011. 32 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 6-8.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the best of friends while creating the Declaration of Independence and working towards independence from Britain. They were both ambassadors to European countries after the Revolutionary war, and in these roles they were also best of friends. However, when determining what kind of government the United States of America should have, they disagreed. They didn’t disagree in a friendly way; they talked about each other behind each other’s backs. They chose not to have anything to do with each other. Much later, after Adam’s and then Jefferson had been President, they each went home to read and be with their families. During this time, they once again became friends, writing many, many letters back and forth.
In “Worst of Friends” The story of Adams and Jefferson is told as a story almost every child has experienced. Who hasn’t been so angry with a friend that he or she has wanted to do the equivalent of jumping on his wig in frustration. It makes two great men seem human. It also teaches a lesson about friendship: that when a best friendship appears to be lost, it may return again.
“Worst of Friends” also gives us an idea of what it’s like to have a political friendship. When the two friends agree on politics, the friendship can be very close. When they disagree, sometimes the friendship has to cool down. But that doesn’t mean that ultimately the two political friends don’t have a great deal of respect for each other.
The illustrations in this book are lighthearted and funny. They augment the text, and they do so effortlessly.
In the front of the book there’s an excellent selected bibliography for adult readers.
“Worst of Friends” is a wonderful view of a friendship just like any child would have, except that this was a friendship between two of the most important people who started our country. It’s also a great example of how you can be friends, and sometimes can’t be friends, when politics are involved.