From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 2-5–Describing each man in turn as either bold, noisy, honest, clever, or independent, and taking many liberties with the truth, Smith relates how the Founding Fathers of the title–and Jefferson, too–played a part in securing Americas freedom. Hancocks penchant for sprawling his name across the chalkboard as a child led to his boldly writing the biggest signature on the Declaration of Independence. Reveres loud voice selling underwear in his shop came in handy when he had to scream The Redcoats are coming! Washingtons honest admission to chopping down trees led to his serving as president in New York City where there were few forests. Well, you get the idea. The pen-and-ink cartoon illustrations, richly textured with various techniques, add to the fun. Page turns reveal droll surprises such as young bewigged George, axe in hand and already missing some teeth, surveying his felled orchard, or Franklins rejoinder when the townspeople express their vexation with his clever sayings. Early American typefaces, parchment grounds, and vestiges of 18th-century life, like chamber pots and hoop toys, evoke a sense of the time. A true-and-false section in the back separates fact from fiction. While children will love the off-the-wall humor, there is plenty for adult readers to enjoy, too–the clever fly leaf, puns (…that bell-ringing took a toll on young Paul), and more. Exercise your freedom to scoop up this one.–Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT
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K-Gr. 3. The title offers a clue that Smith is winking at adults, but as good a joke as it is, most children just won't get it. In the stories within, bold-schoolboy John (Hancock) writes his name so large on the blackboard that his exasperated teacher remarks, "We don't need to read it from space." Similarly, loudmouthed Paul (Revere) embarrasses a lady who comes into his shop to buy extralarge underwear; honest George (Washington) admits to chopping down an entire orchard; clever Ben (Franklin) annoys the neighbors with his platitudes; and independent Tom (Jefferson)^B presents a list of grievances to his teacher. The time comes, though, when their traits are valuable to the revolutionary cause. To reach full comic potential, Smith stretches the truth beyond the breaking point, then attempts to undo some of the misconceptions he has created in a true-false quiz, "Taking Liberties," on the closing pages. Deftly drawn, witty, and instantly appealing, the illustrations creatively blend period elements such as wood-grain and crackle-glaze texturing, woodcut lines, and formal compositions typical of the era, with gaping mouths and stylized, spiraling eyes typical of modern cartoons. The artwork and design are excellent and adults will chortle, but this book seems likely to confuse children unfamiliar with the period. Kids will need to know actual, factual American history to appreciate what's going on. Carolyn Phelan
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