From School Library Journal
Grade 5-9-In her introduction, Fleming says that she set out to write a straightforward biography of one of America's most forward-thinking and inventive statesmen but found the form to be too restrictive and not true to Franklin's wide-ranging interests and accomplishments. She has written instead a compendium of "-bits and pieces by subject" put into eight chapters with headings such as "Boyhood Memories" and "Tokens of a Well-Lived Life." In scrapbook style, the chapters are centered around excellent-quality visuals-portraits, etchings, cartoons, and sketches-linked together with engrossing text and numerous nuggets of Franklin's prose, which include his reminiscences and observations. The result is an authoritative work of depth, humor, and interest, presenting Franklin in all his complexity, ranging from the heroic to the vulgar, the saintly to the callous. Read cover to cover, the book gives a three-dimensional picture of a life, but it is equally good for dipping into and turning up the interesting anecdote or bit of wisdom, thus appealing to both serious readers and browsers. Beginning with a year-by-year chronology, the volume also includes lengthy bibliographies, a list of picture sources, Web sites, and a thorough index. Reminiscent of Franklin's own Poor Richard's Almanack, this book is a superlative example of the biographer's craft and a fitting tribute to the gentleman himself.Ann Welton, Grant Elementary School, Tacoma, WA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 6-9. There's no shortage of books on Franklin, but this biography, which springs from Fleming's lifelong fascination with the multitalented man, is unlike anything that has come before, and it bears no resemblance to Fleming's picture-book work. Designed more like a scrapbook than an almanac, it's a visually rich but densely packed amalgamation of anecdotal narrative, boxed insets, black-and-white reproductions of period documents and artwork, and material obtained from Franklin's personal papers--all organized into topical chapters on Franklin's family life, writings, scientific pursuits, and political involvement. The whole gives an excellent sense of the time in which Franklin lived, but the thematic organization here sacrifices continuity and leaves occasional gaps. The science section is perhaps the best as it falls neatly into invention-specific discussions. Lively anecdotes greatly expand the main text, and numerous quotes by and about Franklin give the man a truly human face, even as they raise questions that continue to puzzle historians. A fitting tribute to a "good gentleman" whose life was well and energetically lived. Web sites and further readings are appended. Stephanie ZvirinCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved