Worst of Friends
written by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain; illustrated by Larry Day
2011 (Dutton Juvenile)
Source: Orange County Public Library
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Election season brings out the worst in negative campaigning. How many loads of laundry could we do with the amount of spin produced by opposing camps? Voters inevitably complain about the venom contained in these contests and some members of the media will declare the season the "worst yet" for campaign nastiness and wonder why politicians can't be more positive in their running for office. Fortunately, we have books like Worst of Friends that show our candidates have inherited this lack of civility honestly from their forefathers in politics. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson worked together as friends during the colonial fight for independence, but around 1790, during George Washington's first term as president, these two friends started to become mortal enemies. Adams, a Federalist, wanted the office of the president to have great power while Jefferson, a Republican, thought this was a bad idea. The back and forth name calling between the two men and their political parties continued for decades. Adams served as the second president of the United States, but was stymied continually by Federalists railing against his efforts. Sometimes he became so upset that he stomped on his powdered wig. After losing a bid for a second term to Jefferson in 1800, Adams didn't even bother to stick around for the inauguration and instead left Washington on a stagecoach in the middle of the night. It wasn't until nearly 12 years later that Adams sent a New Year's greeting to his old friend and rekindled the positive relationship that had existed over two decades earlier. The great irony is that both of these historical figures died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Worst of Friends is a lively picture book that helps young readers understand the cantankerous and affectionate relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. This book would serve as a good starting point for a discussion on how friendships that have been fractured can be healed. "Why do we argue?" and "How can we disagree without being disagreeable?" are two questions that can be addressed. It is also an excellent primer for students who may not understand that negative campaigning has been with us since the beginning of our political system.