Now and then, we think about Ben," begins Barretta's (On Top of Spaghetti) lighthearted and enlightening picture-book biography. "It was as if Ben could see into the future. Almost everything he created is still around today." The book's format echoes its title: the left-hand side of each spread highlights images and explanations of contemporary versions of Franklin's inventions ("Now"), while the facing page reveals the fellow at work on his innovations ("Ben"). Among the wide-ranging inventions, discoveries and designs included are bifocals, electricity, swimming fins, the benefits of Vitamin C, the Pennsylvania Fireplace (later renamed the Franklin stove) and the odometer ("Ben invented the odometer when he was postmaster general so he could measure his postal routes"). Barretta also mentions Franklin's pivotal role in establishing the country's first library, hospital, post office, and fire and sanitation departments, and in creating the Constitution and other key documents. The juxtaposition of present and past effectively reinforces the continued relevance of Franklin's inventions and underscores the extraordinary range and depth of his ingenuity and practicality. With its breezy format and succinct text, the book delivers facts in an assuredly kid-friendly style. The playful watercolor cartoons, often divided into panels, help to vary the pacing. A concluding futuristic spread envisions even further updated variations on Franklin's inventions. Ages 5-9. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Barretta's appreciation of this iconic figure of American history connects our life today with Franklin's creations from over two hundred years ago. "Ben" was the first, for example, to print a political cartoon in America. Our bifocals were designed by him, as were lightning rods, "Grabbers" to extend our reach, swimming flippers, many kinds of chairs, even daylight saving time and odometers. In brief, clear sentences Barretta contrasts "Now" with "Ben," including Franklin's scientific discoveries and his organization of a library, post office, and fire and sanitation departments. Franklin here gets his due. Opposing pages match current practices with those of Ben's time. Watercolor scenes depict the characters in a light-hearted, humorous manner in somewhat detailed settings focusing on the inventions. The double title page depicting modern day Philadelphia's waterfront merging with a similar colonial period scene, including Ben on the deck of a ship, is eye-catching, informative, and sets the mood for the visual narrative to come. Sketches of Ben's many creations enliven the end-papers. 2006, Henry Holt and Company, Ages 4 to 8.
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-A clever, concise introduction to the contributions of this colorful colonial figure. The first spread depicts Franklin standing proudly by his family home with his wife and children smiling from within. His various occupations-writer, printer, diplomat, musician, humorist, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humanitarian-are written on the cobblestones beneath him. Next is a spread of a busy city street today, which challenges readers to guess which modern conveniences are owed to the subject's creativity. Subsequent spreads take a closer look at each invention from political cartoons, bifocals, electricity, lightning rod, and Franklin stove to daylight saving time and more. Each spread features a "Now-" description of a modern concept or convenience facing an early "Ben-" idea. "Now-every automobile has an odometer to measure the distance it travels. Ben-invented the odometer when he was postmaster general so he could measure his postal routes." The fanciful final spread depicts a futuristic scene with flying-saucer vehicles and robot servers, which encourages youngsters to imagine how today's inventions will evolve in time. Engaging and humorous watercolor cartoons depict just how Franklin's inventions were conceived and developed. The yellow mottled endpapers are filled with sketches of the inventions featured within. Both Aliki's The Many Lives of Benjamin Franklin (S & S, 1988) and Rosalyn Schanzer's How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning (HarperCollins, 2003) offer more background and biographical information, though this lively offering is sure to inspire readers to learn more about its fascinating subject.--Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Sunny cartoons juxtapose now and then in a lighthearted exploration of how Benjamin Franklin's inventions have survived into the modern age. Although "invention" is a little broadly construed-are political cartoons and Daylight Savings Time, strictly speaking, inventions?-it's a pretty impressive collection of achievements: The Franklin stove and lightning rods, of course, share space with bifocals, odometers and swim fins. The illustrations are genial enough, and use a lightly humorous touch to make their points (Ben offers an obviously distressed sailor a lime to stave off scurvy). A clean organization that opposes "Now" on the left (dominated by modern blues and greens) and "Ben" on the right (dominated by yellows, Ben's blue coat standing out) aids in the presentation of the information. It's an enthusiastic enough effort, but, in an anniversary year bound to be chock-full of Ben Franklin books, such flaws as the absence of suggestions for further reading make it no more than a marginal purchase. Rosalyn Schanzer's How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning (2003) covers much of the same territory but does it much better. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)
From the Publisher
“The extraordinary sense of Franklin as a severely temporally displaced person gives [this book] its power to delight . . . charming illustrations.” The New York Times Book Review
“A clever, concise introduction to the contributions of this colorful colonial figure . . . sure to inspire readers to learn more about its fascinating subject.” School Library Journal
“Barretta leads readers from what they do know to what they probably don't . . . Read this one aloud.” The Horn Book Magazine
“With its breezy format and succinct text, the book delivers facts in an assuredly kid-friendly style.” Publishers Weekly
“A punchy read-aloud to lighten up American history units.” Booklist