Book Reviews
 
"I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." ~ C.S. Lewis
 
Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man
Editorial Review by Carla Trueheart for Readers' Favorite  April 17, 2017

 

Thomas Jefferson - From Boy to Man by Jayne DAlessandro Cox follows the life and times of Thomas Jefferson. If you're looking to learn more about Thomas Jefferson as a person and not just his accomplishments in writing and politics, this is the book for you. A unique take on the life of the man, this book follows him from before his birth until his death, with highlights on his family life, the women that he courted and loved, his education, and Monticello. There are pictures included in the book, introspection in the form of journals and personal, private letters penned by Thomas Jefferson, and tales of Shadwell, where he was born. If that's not enough, the reader will also learn what games Thomas Jefferson played as a child, what he looked like through physical descriptions, and how he enjoyed gardening and focused on his health. A timeline is included at the end of the book, as well as recipes that might interest the reader. 

What struck me most about Thomas Jefferson - From Boy to Man was the beautiful writing. Author Jayne DAlessandro Cox has a clear passion for the topic and has obviously done unbelievable research on Thomas Jefferson, his family, and the land and structures he frequented. The introduction focuses on Virginia and events, and then dives into the story of Peter Jefferson and his land. It was intriguing to learn of these beginnings. This is a full life story of Thomas Jefferson, from start to finish, and it should please the history buff. I recommend the book to anyone interested in learning more about the life of Thomas Jefferson.

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By Dr. Michael Kesselman, Owner of EDUDOC Career & Life Coaching   December 21, 2015

 

Accolades and kudos to you, Jayne, for your well researched book about one of the most unique larger than life figures in American History. I am very impressed with your zealous passion, and meticulous study of this illustrious, significant, and at times enigmatic and unorthodox American historical icon. Your careful, insightful, and painstaking incorporation of primary source treasures specially earmark and differentiate your examinations from others. Your particular adherence to minuscule details and pertinent and relevant anecdotes, spice up your work. Keep up the great work! 

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By Dr. Taylor Stoermer, Historian   September 14, 2015

 

Jayne is an indefatigable researcher with an infectious enthusiasm for her subjects. Fortunately for readers, they are reflected in her book on Thomas Jefferson, which is a fine introduction for lay readers to an important, and often daunting, topic. Most people prefer the mature Jefferson, embarking on his revolutionary, and deeply conflicted, career, whereas Jayne has chosen to explore what got him to that point, when there was more Shadwell than Monticello in him. In doing so, she has done an admirable job and makes one look forward to her next project.

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By Mike Purdy  April 19, 2014

 

While I was visiting Thomas Jefferson's masterpiece home, Monticello - a building that he called his "essay in architecture" - I had the pleasure to meet the author of this newly published book (December 2013) that focuses on Jefferson's early years as a boy and covering his first 31 years from 1743 (when he was born in nearby Shadwell) to 1774. Jayne D'Alessandro-Cox has written a very readable account of these early years in Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man.

While the author characterizes the book officially as a novel, and there are limited parts that are formed from her imagination that she clearly identifies, most of the book is historical and factual. It's more biography and history than novel, and thus the term "historical novel" doesn't really accurately characterize the book.

The author, Jayne D'Alessandro-Cox, writes "If only we could travel back in time and live in his world as a boy growing up in eighteenth-century colonial Virginia, we might better understand this man of the Enlightenment who dared to question the traditional customs and beliefs of his day."


Jayne has accomplished her purpose well in this book that was three years in the making of meticulous research and pleasing writing. In reading this 251 page book (plus references, appendixes, and notes), I did feel transported back in time to understand what it would have been like for Jefferson to grow up in those times. She does a wonderful job of clearly setting the context of the times, and making history accessible. For example, she describes how Jefferson and his father were both surveyors and the importance of this profession in those times as well as some of the challenges of surveying then with the tools that were available.

The book is more a personal account of Jefferson's early years than it is a description of political issues of the times. This is a very human account of Jefferson and his family. It addresses his awkward and failed attempt at courting Rebecca Burwell, his days studying at the College of William and Mary, the fire at the family home at Shadwell, his courtship and marriage to the widow Martha Wayles Skelton, the impacts of earthquakes and floods, and so much more.

This book is packed with very readable historical details and descriptions of the geography, and makes the Virginia countryside of Jefferson's youth come alive. For example, it sets the context for the tobacco economy that formed the basis of wealth in colonial Virginia. If you're planning to visit Monticello, read Jayne's book first as a "pre-tour guide." It will enhance your understanding of what life was like for Jefferson as a boy and young man.

Jayne D'Alessandro-Cox has written a well-researched book from multiple sources. It is an important contribution focusing on Jefferson's early years!

 

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By David Mercer  June 30, 2014

 

Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man is an excellent book filled with a wealth of information and knowledge about Jefferson including the many facets of his unique, complex, and active life from his childhood to his death. The pictures that are included in the book are rare treasures that help reinforce the reading material providing you with a visual sense of Jefferson’s life. This book is a real treat for individuals wanting to learn about Thomas Jefferson or lovers of the historical aspects of his life. The author uses great skill in this accomplished, atmospheric and thoughtful book!

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By Jeff Harrison  June 28, 2014

 

A must read for anyone who loves Jefferson and the incredible impact he made on the world. What was behind the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, doubled the size of our country and founded the first nonsectarian university in the USA? I think Jayne helps us understand how that mind was formed.

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By T. Seto  June 19, 2014

 

Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man is a wonderful historical depiction of Thomas Jefferson, his friends, and family. The author's attention to historical accuracy and in-depth research is quite evident. I enjoyed learning the many tidbits of information that never is mentioned in typical tours and lectures one attends. After reading the book I was inspired to take yet another visit to Monticello to see the nuances described in the book. This is a very interesting and fact-filled read!

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By Franklin M.  June 19, 2014

 

Not many books give you an understanding of the true creation of a brilliant historical figure. This one does. Jayne has lead us through the early life experiences of Mr. Jefferson in such a way as to make the reader realize his humanity and compassion and how they applied to his lifetime philosophy and actions.
 

As a resident of Albemarle County Virginia this book really came to life through descriptions of area history. The accurate and descriptive accounts will do the same for those not familiar with our beautiful area which played such an important role in Mr. Jeffersons development as chronicled by Jayne.
 

The history texts of my past did not much more than recite timelines and cold facts. This book puts a face on one of the most important figures in American history that any student could relate to. It should be part of any American History Class required reading!

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By Susan Forschler  May 3, 2014

 

I found Jayne D’Alessandro Cox’s book, Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man, to be a pleasurable read and an enlightening experience. I learned so many things about this period of Thomas Jefferson’s life that I had hither to been unaware of. The book was well researched and is a must read for enthusiasts of Mr. Jefferson. It is clear that Jayne put her heart and soul into writing this book. I highly recommend it for both adults and young adults!

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By Kent Wyland  May 1, 2014

 

I long for you to find success with this book and I believe it should be in every history class in America from High School up; as well as on best-selling lists, and on many bookstore shelves. I remember many days as a boy being in and around Jefferson's old stomping grounds in Shadwell. Fishing and running my small boat with electric engine, riding motorcycles through the woods, hiking, hunting exploring. My trips to Monticello always inspired me.... the grounds, the surroundings, the architecture, the dreams he held and worked towards on a daily basis. I did not grow up to be another Thomas Jefferson, but the boy within me still lives. Your book only feeds my dreams. What better thing could a person do for another than to inspire him to keep his dreams.

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By Lindsay McKillican  April 29, 2014

 

I really enjoyed this book. Even though I have lived in the area for 40 years, there was so much to learn! Now when I drive by properties in Shadwell or Rt.231 or Rt.33, I think, "Thomas Jefferson went to school here." or "His teacher lived here." or "Peter Jefferson owned this property." The detailed information with footnotes and references is phenomenal. I highly recommend this book!

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By Geogannie  April 28, 2014

 

I was fortunate enough to be able to edit an early draft of this story and could not help making lesson plans in all the margins! Students have always been expected to study the "major accomplishments" of the Presidents but this book helps us see Jefferson was a real person, with boyhood crushes and best friends he enjoyed growing up alongside in the Virginia countryside. We get a sneak peek into his friendships, heartbreaks and adolescent dreams, his coming to terms with becoming the "man of the house," and his eventual call into public service. Author Jayne D'Alessandro-Cox recently spoke at our school. Our students were immediately drawn to her unique story of the boy behind the man. A great read and a great gift for anyone who enjoys learning about this remarkable man!

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By Henry P. Williamson  April 23, 2014

 

The author brings to life critically important aspects of Thomas Jefferson's early years not generally known or appreciated by history buffs and others who tend to focus on the man from the time he entered the House of Burgesses. Knowledge of his early life seems to be all too often limited to the chronology and litany of achievements beginning with the numbers of languages he read and moves quickly to his political career. One cannot understand his motivations, aspirations and the things which conflicted him without having a good sense of the key events and personalities influencing his formative years from his father's vocation, sitting in on native American campfires at the river's edge of their Shadwell homestead, to the death of his beloved sister Jane, to playing with black slave children to the impact mentors such as Dr. Small, Rev. Maury and Squire Wythe. Couldn't recommend this book more highly! Dr. Henry P. (Phil) Williams III

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By Freddy  April 22, 2014

 

I heard about this book from a fellow colleague. As a teacher, I appreciate all the hard work that went into researching Thomas Jefferson's youth. I could not put this book down, and while reading it, I kept thinking, "my students are going to LOVE this book!" I have since donated my copy to my school library, and am encouraging my students to read it. It is a perfect book for students needing to write a book report on a historical figure! I recommend this book to students, teachers, and history lovers. Very good book!

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By Barbara Woodsmall  April 20, 2014

 

There have been a lot of books written on Thomas Jefferson, and while I have read many of them, I have never read one that does a better job of focusing on his formative years growing up in Virginia than Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man, by Jayne D'Alessandro-Cox. The book is extremely well researched and detailed, but yet still a lively read. The author's intimate familiarity with the places Jefferson grew up is obvious, refreshing and insightful. This book is a recommended read for anybody that considers themselves a fan of the sage of Monticello.

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By Lavenia D.  April 17, 2014

 

This author makes history come alive for both adults and children. My 10 year old grandson and I enjoyed reading and then discussing the life of young Thomas Jefferson. I highly recommend the book!

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By Amber Joyce  January 29, 2014

 

An intriguing, creatively-written look at the early life of Thomas Jefferson, and how he matured to become one of America's most influential men. A fascinating and fun read, and a great gift for all ages. Highly recommend!

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By Susie Kruse  January 10, 2014

 

Jayne's passion for writing and research really comes through in Thomas Jefferson-From Boy To Man. She puts life into history while giving you a detailed account of his younger years. You get a feel for how people lived in the 1700's from Jefferson's own perspective. easy read, held my interest, very informative. A good read! 

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By Keith Griffitts  March 16, 2014

 

Jayne Cox’s Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man is by far the best documented historical novel I have read.  She makes this little known period of Jefferson’s life come alive, and highlights the true genius of the man.  I have read all of her books, and this one is a “must read”.  I can’t wait for her next book!

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By Don Danilek   August 4, 2014

 

What a marvelous book!  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  It covers a period of Jefferson’s life not previously focused upon, and it reflects your obvious profound research on the subject. It must have been a lot of fun doing that research; I envy you for it. You have handled your writing and the story of Jefferson’s early life with great ease and precision. Kudos for such a superlative job!

 

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By The Shadwell Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution  March 18, 2015

 

Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man by Jayne D'Alessandro-Cox, offers fine insight with regard to Jefferson's child- 

hood. The gift of growing up in Shadwell greatly contributed to the making of the man-Thomas Jefferson! This book is filled with information and facts about Jefferson's childhood and journey to manhood that unlocks the mystery behind this great man.  If you enjoy reading about Jefferson, or are a colonial history buff, this book is a "must read"!

 

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By Connie Palmer  December 15, 2015

 

"Thomas Jefferson, From Boy to Man is an absolutely enjoyable book! I purchased it from Jayne at one of her book signings and had it autographed for a young lady who is so intrigued with Thomas Jefferson. When I purchased it, the intent was to give it as a gift. While flipping through the pages, the pictures caught my eye and I just had to read it before I gave it away. Having lived in the area around Thomas Jefferson's home all my life, I didn't know a lot of the fascinating information about him. I know it will be well received by this young lady, and will help her understand how Thomas Jefferson became the incredible man that he was." 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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© 2013 by JAYNE D'ALESSANDRO-COX

Header photo courtesy of The Creator's Creations Photography, Charlottesville, Virginia
Author photo courtesy of KMS Photography, Charlottesville, Virginia

Marriage Bond Facsimile cover background courtesy of The Library of Virginia.

Book cover foreground image courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.