Monday, July 22, 2013
Electric Ben by Robert Byrd
Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by Robert Byrd, 2012.
This Sibert Honor winning over sized biography may be only 30+ pages, but it packs in information about the hardworking Ben Franklin. He was quite an amazing man: a philanthropist, scientist, inventor, politician and diplomat. He began America's first lending library and started what would become the University of Pennsylvania. He invented streetlights, the lightning rod and bifocals, among other things. Franklin founded America's first hospital and created our original fire-fighting force. Yet, he considered himself first a printer. He published a popular newspaper and became a bestselling author with Poor Richard's Almanac. The list of his achievements goes on and on. Because of his extreme importance in government events before, during and following the Revolutionary war, readers also get a snapshot of the struggle for independence. Byrd sums up Franklin thusly: "Of all his accomplishments and gifts,Franklin's greatest may have been his untiring effort as a mediator and guiding spirit in the development of the law-making process that governs the United States."
After Franklin's story, Byrd tells about the challenge of writing about him and Byrd's own aim to give kids a feel for life in the 18th century as they meet this amazing citizen. Byrd also discusses his illustrations and the efforts that he made to be historically accurate. A timeline and bibliography are included.
This is a wonderfully well designed book, from the exciting cover to its endpapers covered with Ben Franklin's quotes. Every page is decorated with colorful watercolor art, nearly always creatively portraying a moment of action in Franklin's fascinating life. Panels of brief, interesting information are accompanied by pictures, some arranged similar to a comic strip.
My favorite quote of Franklin's many quotes is: "Everything puts me in mind of a story."