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Children's LiteraturePart of the "Signature Lives" series, this biography of Banneker depicts a quiet hero of his time and a model for our current times. At a time when most people, black or white, could neither read or write, Benjamin Banneker--a free black man in Maryland who was the grandson of a prince from Africa--wrote to President Jefferson and complained about slavery. He was an unusual child, his genius showing through quickly. His grandmother taught him his letters and numbers; very quickly his number skills became useful to the family farm and the farms of the neighbors. As he grew, Benjamin expanded his studies, learning more math and astronomy, as well as writing. When two presses in two different parts of the country decided to publish his almanacs, he became one of the best-published African-American's in his time. And when the new United States government needed help laying out Washington, DC, Banneker traveled the 20 miles from Ellicott City, Maryland, to help. The book uses a few drawings and paintings, but Weatherly's writing provides a well-rounded image of a quiet genius. Even though Weatherly did not leave any obvious holes in the biography, I was sorry when the book ended. This book should be helpful for students writing reports during Black History Month, as well as students studying the colonial period of our country. Back matter includes "Life and Times," "Life at a Glance," additional resources, a glossary, and an index. 2006, Compass Point Books, Ages 8 to 12.
—Amy S. Hansen