Thomas Jefferson and the Return of the Magic Hat (The President and Me #3)
Published September 28, 2020
About Thomas Jefferson and the Return of the Magic Hat
After almost six months in Maryland, fifth-grader Oliver still misses his friends back in New Jersey. But things start to change one day, when his neighbor–and possible new friend–Sam lends Oliver a magic hat that takes him back to the 18th- and 19th-century world of Thomas Jefferson. Oliver and his sisters–Cassie, the nice one, and Ruby, the annoying one–end up learning more about Jefferson than they’d expected. And Oliver finds that his new neighborhood might not be so terrible after all.
Thomas Jefferson and the Return of the Magic Hat is the third in The President and Me series that began with George Washington and the Magic Hat and John Adams and the Magic Bobblehead. This new adventure brings back previous characters Sam, Ava, J.P. (blink and you might miss them, though!), and of course the cantankerous talking hat itself.
Oliver is a sweet character with a big family who’s still acclimating to his new school. He struggles with a couple classmates who bully him for blurting out little known facts about presidents. I found him pretty easy to identify with.
He time travels backward to Thomas Jefferson’s lifetime and witnesses some key moments in his life: seeing him working on the Declaration of Independence, meeting him as he’s looking at the land which will become his estate, Monticello, and eavesdropping on the meeting between Jefferson, Hamiton and Madison to discuss the US capital.
It was neat to get to see snippets of those moments. The historical scenes always seemed really short to me– whenever Oliver removes the hat from his head, he returns to the present, and he seems to do that a lot!– so sometimes that felt a bit choppy. But it also kept the balance of the story focused on Oliver and the things he learns about friendship and family through his time traveling experiences.
One of the things I was really interested in is that early on in the story, Oliver and his friends discuss the fact that though Thomas Jefferson wrote about equality, he owned slaves. In fact, some were his own children. It seemed like the story might have intended to explore that issue more deeply, perhaps even to discuss it with Jefferson himself.
Oliver does meet Jefferson’s son, Madison Hemmings, and there’s a brief drive-by of a sort of explanation that Jefferson moderated/removed overt anti-slavery words in the Declaration of Independence because the Revolution needed the support of colonies who depended on slavery.
The obvious contradiction in his belief to be against slavery and the fact the he owned slaves is acknowledged. But on the whole, the issue isn’t deeply explored, and I was a bit disappointed by that because of the setup.
I thought the book was interesting, and enjoyed the present-day conflicts that Oliver had to navigate with friends and sisters. I think readers who have just outgrown the Magic Treehouse books, but still enjoy that type of story will enjoy this series.
Recommended for Ages 8 to 10.
Main characters are white. Oliver has brief encounters with a young Black slave in Thomas Jefferson’s house.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
A talking hat guides Oliver and his friends on time travel adventures.
Note: I received a free copy of THOMAS JEFFERSON AND THE RETURN OF THE MAGIC HAT in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support running this blog.