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How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning Hardcover – December 24, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As with her How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark, Schanzer's lively writing and drawing style again makes history come alive. Here she gives appropriate spark to a picture-book overview of Benjamin Franklin's various inventions and scientific experiments, zeroing in on his discovery of lightning's electric power. The statement "It's true!" begins the exhilarating ride. From there the author summarizes, in a succinct and zippy style, many of Franklin's achievements as inventor, statesman, author, entrepreneur, activist, community leader and musician-a Renaissance man of boundless energy ("Didn't the man ever stop to rest?" she wonders). The artwork, a combination of vibrantly colored dyes and ink line, depicts an ebullient Franklin smiling, with his hair flying, as he flits from one role to the next. But the author devotes a significant portion of the book to Franklin's curiosity about electricity (which he believed to be found in lightning) and its potential to cause devastating fires, including the story behind Franklin's famous experiment of flying a kite with a key on its string during a thunderstorm. The compositions, which include period detail and accessible illustrated renditions of Franklin's documented projects and inventions, match the chipper tone of the text. An extensive author's note provides further information on Franklin's life and works, and spiffy endpapers reproduce diagrams and notes from Franklin's papers in Philadelphia's American Philosophical Society. This fitting tribute to a memorable leader emphasizes the playfulness that accompanies a curious mind and the boundless energy required for great accomplishments. Ages 6-12.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-4-Even in childhood, Franklin was inventing better ways to do things. "He lay on his back, held on to a kite string, and let his kite pull him lickety-split across a big pond." This spirited account of the most prodigious inventor echoes the tall-tale humor Schanzer employed in Davy Crockett Saves the World (HarperCollins, 2001). Her subject comes across as larger than life, even though the lively, color cartoon sketches often depict him in miniature. The book begins with Franklin's accomplishments but quickly moves on to his many inventions and his growing interest in electricity, culminating in his capture of lightning in the legendary kite experiment. The author does a nice job of explaining the historical context and the ultimate value of the lightning rod in saving lives. The deftly drawn comic scenes and the folksy tone lend folklore flavor, but this brisk account is not fictionalized. The concluding author's note adds information on Franklin's work as inventor, and the endpapers superimpose a small, cheerful depiction of him on a pleasant layout of his own sketches. Well conceived and crafted, this fresh view is particularly welcome as few of the fine picture-book accounts of the popular patriot remain in print. Enjoyable reading fare, this volume will pair neatly with Lisa Jo Rudy's The Ben Franklin Book of Easy and Incredible Experiments (Wiley, 1995).
Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 910L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (December 24, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688169937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688169930
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.2 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Author/Illustrator Rosalyn Schanzer's book Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem (National Geographic) is the winner of the Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators for Best Illustrated Children's Book of 2011 and has also received a 2012 Robert F. Sibert Honor Award as one of the year's 5 most distinguished informational books for children. Other awards for this book include:

Starred Review from School Library Journal
SLJ Best Book of the Year
NY Public Library's 25 best Nonfiction Titles of 2011
New York Times Best Books of 2011
A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book
Fuse #8 list of 100 Magnificent Children's Books of 2011
Kid Lit Frenzy top 5 Middle Grade Picks of 2011

Schanzer has written and illustrated 16 award-winning books for young people. A world traveler, nationally ranked Masters swimmer, avid photographer, and chocolate connoisseur, she lives in Fairfax Station Virginia with her husband in a house surrounded by birds. You can visit her website at www.rosalynschanzer.com

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Roz Levine on April 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"It's true! The great Benjamin Franklin really did steal lightning right out of the sky! And then he set out to tame the beast. It goes to figure, though, because he was a man who could do just about anything..." So begins Rosalyn Schanzer's engaging introduction to one of colonial America's most fascinating men. Ben Franklin was a man of many talents and accomplishments. He was a writer, politician, soldier, musician, inventor, and entrepreneur. He helped lead our country to independence, and traveled the world as a statesman. But he often best known for his inventions and boundless curiosity. This of course leads to his interest in electricity and the well known kite and key experiment..... Ms Schanzer's entertaining text is written in an easy to read, conversational style, and is rich in history, trivia, fun facts, and wit. Her playful illustrations complement the text beautifully and are filled with bold color, humor, and captivating, eye-catching details. Together word and art provides a clever and appealing history lesson that is sure to whet the appetite and send kids out looking for more. With a marvelous Author's Note at the end to further enlighten and augment the story, How Ben Franklin Stole The Lightning is a masterpiece of fun-filled learning, perfect for kids 7-11, that shouldn't be missed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stanley Cup VINE VOICE on January 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book! I am so impressed with the way Rosalyn Schanzer approached the subject matter and made it a fun read for kids and grown up's alike. The book is a biographical look at the life and inventions of Ben Franklin, but written in very kid-friendly language and in a way that keeps your child's attention throughout the entire book. While the title references him "stealing" lightning, and hence laying the groundwork for electricity, it is just one of the many inventions she talks about in his lifelong pursuit of making things better for all of society through his marvelous inventions. Ben Franklin really was the epitome of a Renaissance Man. His curiosity led to some great inventions, but he was also a statesman, musician, author, philanthropist, and even started the first public lending library (a new fact I had not known). After reading about all of his adventures, I wished I had been around when he was alive just to see how exciting it must have been to live during a time when all of these things came about. I loved this book because it presented one of the greatest Americans in such a fresh and engaging way, that my 8-year old son was more than willing to sit through the book with me and asked to hear it again. It lead to many follow up discussions about his inventions and how they apply to the world today.

The author made the story so engaging it did not feel like you were getting a history lesson while you read the book, but that is exactly what you got. And it was fun. And the illustrations were great. I hope she continues to write books about other popular historical American figures, because she writes these books so well. This is exactly the type of book kids need to read to get excited about history. Which leads me to one side note.
Read more ›
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie's Mommy Brain on January 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Schanzer gives an overview of Franklin's life in the first half of this book. Then during the second half she focuses on Franklin's experiments with electricity and his famous kite flight.

My favorite part is the explanation of how the kite experiment worked. There was more to it than lightening striking a kite but you'll have to read the book to find out for yourself.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have a doctorate in education with literacy my area of specialization and use Picture Books to introduce content to secondary students who struggle to read and comprehend facts/information from their text books. How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning serves as an excellent introduction to Colonial America with some advanced vocabulary and wonderful "visuals" that match the text. It is a great supplement to the history text...
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