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John, Paul, George & Ben Hardcover – February 28, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool and up
  • Lexile Measure: 660L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; 1st edition (February 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786848936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786848935
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lane Smith is the author and/or illustrator of several award-winning books for children. He is a two-time winner of the Caldecott Honor for Grandpa Green (2012) and The Stinky Cheese Man (1993). Four of his books have won the New York Times Best Illustrated Book Award and several of his books, including It's a Book, John, Paul George & Ben and Madam President have been New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestsellers. Mr. Smith has illustrated works by the likes of Bob Shea, Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, George Saunders, Judith Viorst, Florence Parry Heide, Jack Prelutsky and Eve Merriam. Some of his most popular books are with frequent collaborator, Jon Scieszka. Mr. Smith lives in Connecticut with his wife Molly Leach, an award-winning graphic designer.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Lientje on March 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I wavered between a four star and a five star rating because this

book is going to be perhaps more entertaining to adults than to

children. But then I reminded myself of the movie "Ice Age"

which requires a whole lot more knowledge to "get it" than the vast majority of kids have (not to mention, many adults) and yet kids, including my five year old granddaughter, love it.

What this book does give is little snippets of information which

the kids will remember as they are officially learning their history years later. And there is plenty of humor to go around.

What little tykes can resist laughing at the phrase "please shut your big yap" when it isn't being yelled at them but rather at someone famous!

I think this is the sort of book that children will want to hear

again and again, and the good reader will fill in a blank here

and there so that the listeners can learn some real history

along the way. Finishing off the session by listening to "Yellow

Submarine" wouldn't hurt either.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Lane Smith is an illustrator who has collaborated most famously with Jon Scieszka ("The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!" "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales," the Time Warp Trio series), as well as illustrating books by Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss and Jack Prelutsky. Here, he gets by without a little help from his friends, penning and picturing the Four of the Fab Founding Fathers: John (Hancock), Paul (Revere), George (Washington), and Ben (Franklin). Too bad Ben wasn't famous for his decorative rings.

The Beatles need NOT be familiar to your young reader or audience. IN fact , despite the obvious titular reference, Liverpudlian references are not the M.O. here. Sure, there's a great parody of the "Abbey Road" cover, showing the foursome crossing a street. In addition, they have cultish, slightly outrageous, and often independent, irrepresible personalities, and Lane Smith quotes briefly from the Beatles "Revolution." THere's also a fifth "Beatle," Thomas Jefferson, quieter and more studious than the rest (perhaps even moreprecocious than the rest), but certainly a heavier hitter than Ringo's predecessor, Pete Best. So, your kid(s) are going to like this book, maybe love this book, whether or not they've ever heard of "Strawberry Fields."

Lane Smith is as inspired a writer as he is an illustrator. Other reviews mention the jokes--I'll just summarize: THey're hilarious! Smith takes some well-known factoid from their adult years (Ben's never-ending quips, Paul's LOUD, irreverent comments, etc.,) and shows these behaviors in their childhood years, often to the annoyance of peers, teachers, and other adults.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By wendy loves peter pan on March 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
it's hilarious, visually stimulating, and enough of the true fable of these guys to still make sense and make learning history nearly-cool. (well, the book is cool enough so the "nearly-cool" is negated.)

(even the dedication is great... "with a little help from my friends..." so brilliant.)

well done, mr. smith. i love it love it love it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R S Cobblestone VINE VOICE on April 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
John, Paul, George & Ben (and did I mention Tom?) by Lane Smith is a great book for kids. It deals with historic characters:

John Hancock - you can read his signature from space!

Paul Revere - he had a loud voice (because of bad hearing)

George Washington - overly honest?

Ben Franklin - free with advice (Townsfolk suggestion, "Please shut your big yap").

Tom Jefferson - well, he was an independent lad!

The art is nifty, the organization wonderful. This is not as poetic as Dr. Seuss, but children should find it just as entertaining. Why? Because John, Paul, George & Ben (and Tom) were kids before they became historically important figures.

I also like the true and false section at the end. Here's an example:

"Besides inventing clever sayings, Ben also invented bifocals, the Franklin stove, the lightening rod, and Playstation..." True, except for Playstation!

This is a great book to give to your favorite child.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Peterson on September 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My boys (7 and 5), my wife and I think this book is total gas. Plus, we do something unique when we read to our kids: We TALK about the books! "J,P,G & B" has opened up lots of great conversations about real history with our sons. They "get" that Paul Revere didn't sell underwear, but played a pivotal role in our nation's beginnings. And they understand that Ben, George, John and Tom are bona fide American VIPs. (And I'd say it's a safe bet that at least Ben knew how to laugh at himself.) Lighten up, folks -- life's too short to miss out on good, clean giggles!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Julee Rudolf VINE VOICE on February 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Childhood happenings consistent with the adult behaviors that gained them fame are incorporated into short tales about five famous early-Americans: bold John Hancock, noisy Paul Revere, honest George Washington, clever Benjamin Franklin and independent Thomas Jefferson. Some are true, some pure speculation, but author/illustrator Lane Smith clarifies which, separating the facts from the fiction in an unsubtle way. His terrific illustrations are on par with those he created for Jon Sciezka's excellent The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!, and almost outshine the silly, funny childhood anecdotes, previews of the character traits for which they were well-known in adulthood. Especially interesting are the (entirely true!) sayings of Franklin. An excellent, short, well-done book, best for ages five to eight.
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