I am Benjamin Franklin – Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

 I am Benjamin Franklin – Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. 9780525555919

Format: Hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

 Genre: picture book biography

 What did you like about the book?  A child-sized Benjamin Franklin (complete with reading glasses and receding hairline) chronicles his life story, from his upbringing in Boston through the signing of the Declaration of Independence, in comic book panels and full page illustrations.  The 1st person narration is in the text of the book as well as in the speech bubbles of Franklin and the other characters, and includes real quotes from Franklin’s writings (with kid-friendly language interpreting some of his more wordy output).  The book covers Franklin’s early career as a printer and his efforts as a writer; the famous kite experiment is explained in detail; and his involvement in the American Revolution is addressed as well.  The book concludes with modern-day figures (including famous inventors like Tesla and Faraday, and Doc Brown and Marty McFly from the Back to the Future films!) reflecting on the lasting legacy of Benjamin Franklin in the 21st century.

Many picture books about Benjamin Franklin focus on one aspect of his many-faceted life – either Franklin as scientist/inventor or Franklin as statesman and Founding father.  In this installment of his Ordinary People Change the World series, Brad Meltzer tries to cover the whole story, throwing in Franklin’s interest in writing as well, with some success.  In keeping with the series theme, the emphasis is on Franklin’s lifelong pursuit of self-improvement.  This is a serviceable introduction to a man who lived a long life during a very eventful time.  All of the best-known highlights of his famous life are covered, along with back matter including a timeline of major events and a list of recommended further reading.  

Anything you did not like about the book? I thought it was weird that George Washington appears child-size as well (presumably because Meltzer has previously written I am George Washington) when Jefferson, Adams, et al. are fully grown adults.  

 To whom would you recommend this book?  2nd and 3rd graders who aren’t quite ready for the Who Was? Books love this series, and Franklin is always a popular subject for children doing biography projects. 

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Biography

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  no

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: 12/3/2020

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