Reviews of Those Rebels, John and Tom
By Barbara Kerley,
Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Out January 2012

Publishers Weekly:
Starred review

Kerley and Fotheringham, the team behind The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy), cleverly contrast two diverse founding fathers and early presidents, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Entertaining verse and droll illustrations parlay their differences and similarities into a lens through which to view the start of the American Revolution. Initial spreads draw distinctions between lively extrovert John and refined statesman Tom, using parallel contexts. "When [John] wasn't in the courtroom, he planted corn, pruned fruit trees, and chased his chickens and ducks.... When [Tom] wasn't in the courtroom, he maintained his accounts, surveyed his lands, and dined on chicken and duck." A playful tone also is reflected in the typeface, with certain phrases enlarged for shout-out emphasis, and in the caricatured artwork. Skillfully rendered and decidedly modern in a patriotic palette of red, white, blue, and brown, the digitally created scenes mirror and enhance the text's wit (in one illustration, Tom uses a quill pen to spatter an image of King George with ink). A witty and wise portrait of strength being born out of difference. Agent: Writers House. Illustrator's agent: Pat Hackett. Ages 7–11. (Jan.)

Starred review

It's sometimes easy to think of the Founding Fathers as a bunch of interchangeable guys in wigs and weird pants. This fun, energetic double portrait of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson shines a light on how different these two men were from each other. John was brash, argumentative, and as persuasive as a cudgel. Tom was contemplative, shy, and a wicked wielder of the pen. Together, they formed a bond of mutual respect and used their complementary styles to rally a nation behind them. Showing that even the shining beacons of history are complicated figures, Kerley acknowledges the bitter irony that even as Thomas Jefferson was writing the Declaration of Independence and including a provision to prohibit slavery (later taken out by the delegates), he was likely being served tea by his own slave boy. Fotheringham provides page after page of clever, cartoon-style artwork and skillful compositions—heavily steeped in reds, whites, and blues—that add to the excitement of overthrowing stuffy old King George; an image of Tom skewering the monarch with a giant pen, the newly formed continental army marching in the background, is especially memorable. A worthy addition to the American history curriculum, this is a terrific book to lead the charge in learning about the Revolution, as well as a lesson in how dedicated cooperation can achieve great ends. — Ian Chipman