A welcome diversion to pass the hours between scoring science-fair ribbons and exploding...home chemistry sets.
Children's Literature - Paula Rohrlick
Victor, a would-be scientist, has been hard at work on his volcano project for the upcoming middle school science fair, placing each fleeing figure in just the right spot. A methodical, indeed compulsive boy, Victor figures out the probability of all kinds of occurrences, but he never counted on the stray bolt of lightning that hits his house and awakens Benjamin Franklin, who has been in suspended animation in Victor's cellar for a couple of hundred years. Franklin lurches to life, eager to help humanity, but his electrical level has to be carefully monitored, as he goes off on a crazed rampage when he gets too much electricity and becomes zombie-like when he gets too little. The unlikely pair tries to solve the mystery of why Franklin has been awakened and still make it to the science fair, where with Franklin's help Victor's volcano turns into something truly spectacular, though not in a good way. The entertaining talefirst in what looks to be a seriesis greatly enhanced by McElligott's meticulously drawn black-and-white illustrations and technical diagrams of everything from a patent for a padlock to the components of a Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich. All in all, this is geeky fun, and the cover illustration of a Frankenstein-like Ben Franklin is an attention-grabber. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Benjamin Franklin never died. Instead, a secret organization called the Modern Order of Prometheus, of which he was a member, placed him in suspended animation in a hidden Philadelphia cellar, to serve the nation at a later time. In the 21st century, Franklin indeed awakes, but the Prometheans are nowhere to be found. Above the cellar live a young science nerd, Victor Godwin, and his mother. Franklin, trying to understand why he has been awakened, asks to rent a room in the house. Even though he does smell a little like he has spent too much time in a cave and has a greenish complexion, Victor's mom is happy to oblige—after all, he pays the deposit in 1783 gold coins. Franklin also needs regular charges of electricity to stay alive, but when hit by lightning, he temporarily transforms into a real Franklinstein. Victor is one of the funniest nerds in children's literature. He doesn't take long to divine Franklin's secret and is off on expeditions to help him find the Prometheans while trying, with the famous inventor's help, to win top prize in the school science fair. The mock 18th-century illustrations are great fun, and readers can look forward to sequels.—Walter Minkel, Austin Public Library, TX
Nerdy Victor is literally blasted out of his compulsively regimented ways when "Frank Benjamin," waking from 200 years of suspended animation, moves into a nearby apartment. Being a human battery with electricity-conducting bolts embedded in his neck and veins filled with "harmonic fluid," Ben—er, Frank—has a tendency to run amok when overcharged or devolve into a zombielike state when the juice runs low—conditions that the authors exploit to hilarious effect as they send young Victor scurrying across Philadelphia after his new neighbor and mentor, discovering a secret lab buried beneath their rundown building and rebuilding his elaborate but derivative science-fair volcano into an experimental one so massively destructive that even Victor is left impressed and proud. Frequent technical diagrams and actual patent drawings add a luster of Real Science to the antics, and 18th-century veneer is provided by Poor Richard's Almanack–style borders and display type. The balance struck between Victor's methodical approach and Ben's "we'll have to trust our instincts, whack away at the problem, and hope for the best" attitude provide some food for thought, too. Expect sequels. (Sci-fantasy. 10-12)