At the James Monroe Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia a jolly museum director welcomes Grandma Mac and her grandchildren, Jessica and Carl, hinting that the museum is a place where history comes to life. The visitors discover what he means when James Monroe, fifth President of the United States, emerges from a portrait and takes them on a personal tour. The surprised visitors witness important historical events and artifacts related to them, and meet Monroe's wife and daughters, plus historical figures like Napoleon Bonaparte. They also see what life was like in the White House in the 1820s, coming face to face with the reality of slavery. They indulge in the flavors and entertainment of the era, sipping hot chocolate and listening to music played on a piaforte. All of the artifacts highlighted in the book are described in detail, and are featured in exhibits at the James Monroe Museum.