It's time to pay tribute to the Fab Four Founding Fathers: John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington, and Ben "Beat the Liberty Drum" Franklin. Lane Smith's cute history picture book introduces kids to a freedom-loving quartet who loved to stretch the rules.
Smith has his fun with five icons of American history: Washington, Hancock, Franklin, Jefferson, and Paul Revere. Taking his liberties with the facts, he invents some outrageous tales and relates them to actual historic truths, which he does clarify at the end. The Revere Shop sold silver, not underwear, for example. "But extra-large underwear is always funnier." The apocryphal story of Washington and the cherry tree is ridiculously expanded. Franklin's clever sayings finally cause the townspeople to ask him, "Please shut your big yap!" Young Jefferson pushes "Liberty" a bit too hard in school. Smith offers a detailed description of the many techniques he uses, in addition to pen-and-ink, to supply appropriate anecdotal detail in a style that suggests the 18th century but is, of course, his very own comic impression of history. He adds visual potency to parts of the text: for example, the words of Revere's warning that the redcoats are coming expand across to cover half of the double page. Each section is headed by a small portrait based on a historic painting, which is included at the end with the historic record. He also sets the record straight with "ye olde True or False section." As long as young readers do not take this almost sacrilegious humor too seriously, it can be enjoyed by all. 2006, Hyperion Books for Children, Ages 5 to 9.
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Children's Literature - Leigh Herran
Lane Smith introduces us to five odd "young lads": John, Paul, George, Ben, and Thomas. He describes John as bold, and when John's teachers calls on him to go to the blackboard, he writes with very large handwriting. Paul is a little hard of hearing from playing in the belfry and in public, people consider him an exceedingly noisy boy. George causes trouble sometimes, but he is unusually honest whenever his father asks him about his behavior. Ben is clever but his continuous wit eventually annoys people. Thomas is an independent boy who, to the frustration of his teacher, does his own version of class assignments. Smith emphasizes that these schoolboys' distinctiveness is unappreciated in their time. As history unfolds, however, their annoyances become strengths for each of them. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence; John Hancock boldly signed. Paul Revere's loud voice warned his town of coming danger. Honest George Washington became our first president. Benjamin Franklin encouraged these men with his witty words: "We must all hang together or assuredly we shall hang separately." Having illustrated many noted children's books, such as Squids will be Squids and his New York Times "Best Illustrated Book," Stinky Cheese Man, Smith knows how to entice his reader into lingering longer than the typical few seconds per page and does just this with John, Paul, George & Ben. Smith takes history, a subject many children find dull, and makes it fun and entertaining. Not only does he make these "larger than life" historical figures much more human to enable any child to identify with them, but he also opens the imagination toward positivepossibilities.
Children's Literature - Caroline Goddard
When we think about the Founding Fathers we do not think of little boys who get into trouble with their teachers or parents, but as this DVD shows us, some of them did. John, Paul, George and Ben brings history alive with humorous vignettes about the childhoods of five of our favorite statesmen. We learn that Paul Revere's loud voice was cultivated in his church's bell ringing club. Not all members of the community appreciated this special talent when in his father's shop he loudly announced the size of their underwear. Humor is the order of the day throughout this DVD as young Ben Franklin drives his friends crazy with one too many of his clever sayings and John Hancock frustrates his teacher with his large "John Hancock" on the chalkboard. These characteristics of John, Paul, George, Ben and Independent Tom reappear as they lead our new county during the Revolution. Adding to fun, this DVD also offers an interactive component called "Taking Liberties," where viewers can participate in a true or false test to clear up any historical misconceptions. Such lofty and admirable people are portrayed in such a way that all students will be able to identify with them. Masterfully narrated by James Earl Jones and with a musical score that helps to illustrate the character traits of each young Son of Liberty, you cannot help but want to watch this DVD again and again. Running time: 13 minutes. Reviewer: Caroline Goddard
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-Children often get in trouble for being too talkative, or too noisy, or even too independent, but this animated film mixes fact and fiction to show how these characteristics were used by some of our founding fathers-Paul Revere, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock-as well as Thomas Jefferson, to make America what it is today. Based on the popular book (Hyperion, 2006) written and illustrated by Lane Smith, and narrated by James Earl Jones, students will enjoy the humorous, exaggerated scenes, and the animation that brings to life Smith's humorous pen-and-ink cartoon illustrations. Paul was a noisy child, and he got into a bit of trouble when, while working in his father's shop, he shouted a customer's request for extra large underwear. But nobody minded ("except the big underwear lady") when he rode through the streets shouting, "The redcoats are coming!" Ben Franklin was a clever lad. He offered so much advice that he was finally told to "PLEASE SHUT YOUR BIG YAP!"; but it was his advice that convinced others to sign the Declaration of Independence. Some of his clever saying are spoken too quickly and youngsters may find it difficult to understand them. Jefferson, who often got into trouble at school because he was "always off doing his own thing," was the perfect person to write the Declaration of Independence. Since not all the material presented is fact, teachers must be ready to separate truth from fiction. A question-and-answer section at the end of the presentation, "Taking Liberties," will assist teachers in this discussion. An entertaining introduction to five important men in America's history.-Stephanie Farnlacher, Trace Crossings Elementary School,Hoover, AL
Stephanie Farnlacher Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Despite the Beatles-reminiscent title, this offering concerns itself with not four, but five of the Founding Dads: John (Hancock), Paul (Revere), George (Washington), Ben (Franklin) and Tom (Jefferson). Each is imagined in his youth, identified by one characteristic that becomes key to his involvement in the American Revolution. John is bold, writing his name large on the blackboard; Paul is noisy, bellowing out customers' orders in his family's shop; George is honest, confessing to the chopping down of not only the cherry tree, but the whole orchard; Ben is clever, sharing his aphorisms with all who will listen; and Tom is independent, making a model of Monticello instead of a birdhouse out of "ye olde balsa wood." Smith's faux-antiqued illustrations deliver bucket-loads of zany energy, but his text lacks his sometime partner Jon Scieszka's focus. While there is a hallowed place for irreverence in children's literature, one might wish for a work that more evenly balances humor with substance. Still, this may serve as an entry point for kids who think that history is dry as dust, and "Ye Olde True or False Section" really is pretty funny. (Picture book. 5-9)First printing of 250,000; $250,000 ad/promo