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Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards (Awards)) Hardcover – September 13, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-6-In the 1738 edition of Poor Richard's Almanac, Franklin printed this aphorism: "If you would not be forgotten/As soon as you are dead and rotten,/Either write things worth reading,/Or do things worth the writing." He succeeded admirably, as indicated by the ample catalog of Franklin biographies written for young readers from notables including Jean Fritz, James Cross Giblin, and Candace Fleming. Electric Ben represents a proficient but flawed addition to an already-crowded shelf. Using lucid phrasing and appealing detail, Byrd breaks the main narrative into two-page sections, each roughly related to an episode or subject. Unfortunately, excessive design elements and Byrd's fussy ink-and-watercolor illustrations threaten to overwhelm the informative text. Highlighted aphorisms and spot illustrations peppered throughout each page clutter the design and disrupt the flow of the author's readable account of Franklin's astonishingly fruitful life. The vibrant artwork shifts between intricately rendered tableaux and conceptual illustrations packed with symbols and biographical references, the latter, replete with celestial bodies and waves of energy. Finicky captions, which turn some of the electric-hued pictures into stealth diagrams, offer yet more facts and quotes. Byrd makes a few perplexing choices in his narrative, such as including only minimal mention of Franklin's wife, and identifying his illegitimate son, William, as adopted. In general, while the text may convey the wealth of Franklin's writing-worthy achievements, the visuals prove too frenetic even to capture the boundless energy and creativity of that consummate printer-author-scientist-inventor-statesman.-Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NYα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Large in format and ambitious in scope, this appealingly designed book spotlights Benjamin Franklin and his times. Each double-page spread presents an aspect of Franklin’s life, moving chronologically from Ben’s Beginnings and School Days through The Scientific Amusements and The Natural Philosopher to The American in Paris and Liberty and Justice for All. The topical approach allows for tightly focused discussions exploring facets of this complex man. Introducing him as a scientist, writer, inventor, philosopher, publisher, and statesman, the text clearly communicates a sense of Franklin’s personality along with his varied experiences and accomplishments. As well researched as the text, and often given as much space on the page, the detailed ink-and-watercolor artwork creates a distinctive period look for the book and delivers plenty of historical information visually. Many pictures illustrate scenes literally (colonial firefighters attempt to save a house on fire), but others are more symbolic (Franklin standing atop the earth, surrounded by icons representing his scientific accomplishments). While several illustrations of varied sizes sometimes appear on the same spread, the overall effect is very pleasing. Best suited to advanced individual readers or one-on-one read-aloud sessions, this informative biography offers a vivid, striking portrayal. Grades 2-5. --Carolyn Phelan

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Series: Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Books; First Edition edition (September 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803737491
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803737495
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.3 x 12.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #520,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Pam - because someone has to be persnickety TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The ONLY thing wrong with ELECTRIC BEN is the reading level. This book has got appealing artwork and some of the best non-fiction writing for young folks that I've run across in a long while, but it's at a 7.7 Accelerated Reading Level -- which is going to mean that to enjoy fun this excellent book, many children are going to have to have it read to them, rather than read it for themselves.

ELECTRIC BEN looks like a picture book. It's got colorful, detailed art, but even better, it's got great writing about a truly fascinating American Founding Father. Unlike the aristocratic founders, Ben Franklin is very accessible. And you could argue, is one of the better role models. He's common and yet an intellectual genius. He's funny, and yet hard working. I love Ben, and Robert Byrd reminded me of this.

The book starts out with a general sort of biography. The author talks about Franklin's home life and how he found his trade as a printer. The author then delves into the different areas of life that Ben contributed to: politics, the militia, fire departs, literature...

Highly recommend ELECTRIC BEN. It's at a high reading level, but the writing is very accessible and if you break up reading sessions I can see reading this to a wide range of children. With early elementary aged children, I might only read the first sections about Ben's life. But older readers will be able to appreciate the latter chapters about the science and politics of the day.

Great book.

Pam T~
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Courtney on April 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Ben Franklin was an amazing man who paved the way for our country and the world. This book portrays his life accurately and in a colorful way. Electric Ben is an informative book; it provides biographical information as well as science and American history. The forty pages of the book are filled with detailed illustrations of Mr. Franklin's life. Robert Byrd's art is life-like and his use of vivid colors makes the pages come alive. For children I believe an illustrated informative book creates memories of the events in the story and helps them understand the text better. Although it is a great book I do not recommend it for young children only because it does have a higher reading level as well as a lot of text per page. Also the information provided about science and politics later in the book may be too advanced for some young children who have not been introduced to those concepts discussed.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is full of interesting information about Benjamin Franklin. My 9 year old and I read it together over the course of two nights at bedtime. We borrowed this from our local library and it sat in the pile for many nights because it's so long and we only have so much time between brushing teeth and lights out.

We really enjoyed this book and especially loved the illustrations showing Ben doing his thing...electricity, bathtubs, bifocals , etc. The book covers the whole span of Franklin's life and his role in the birth of our nation. Robert Byrd has created a fun and interesting picture book biography. But I think the volume of information and the reading level of the material lends itself to a chapter book rather than a picture book.

I would recommend this for older readers, age 10 to 13, who are probably less likely to select picture books for reading material. The illustrations are great and in my opinion if this were laid out like a graphic novel children in the target audience would be more likely to pick it up and read it.

This is a good book to read with your child, I'll bet you learn something too, I did.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By sherry wang on May 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An outstanding appreciation of the diverse talents of this amazing man and the major impact he had on the history of this country. This book is not for very young children, better for age eight and up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this to my grandson who likes to invent and create science projects. He was therefore most interested in Mr. Franklin's inventions but we got a taste of American history as well.
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Format: Hardcover
I can never seem to read enough about Benjamin Franklin. Part of the reason is that he was truly one of the most innovative founding fathers of our great nation. Among his long list of accomplishments; he was a member of the Second Continental Congress, he signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America. Another reason he fascinates me is because my daughter attends the University of Pennsylvania, founded by Ben Franklin himself in the mid 18th century.

Thiis is a beautiful book, the kind you want to keep forever. Author and illustrator Robert Byrd does a marvelous job depicting Franklin’s life with both his written word and his intricate watercolor and ink paintings. In the back of the book Byrd discussed the process of finding accurate depictions of Franklin to complete his illustrations, giving readers valuable insight into the process of accurately writing a biography.

When you open the inside back or front cover of the book, you’ll find wonderful lists of famous Franklin quotes. You may then find yourself surprised to learn that many of these quotes which we so often use without thinking about their origins actually come from Franklin. You’ll find the story of Franklin’s life in 2-page topic segments. Readers learn about this founding father as a young boy, a scholar, printer, publisher, scientist, inventor, philosopher, political figure and seeker of justice and peace. Franklin was outspoken and a Renaissance man in so many ways.

This book is an excellent introduction to Benjamin Franklin for young readers. The text must be read to the youngest readers as it is quite advanced. But that is a positive because reading with your children is so important and rewarding. After you finish Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Ben Franklin both you and your child will want to learn even more about Franklin, one of our nation’s greatest historical figures.
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Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards (Awards))
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