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The Life of Benjamin Franklin: An American Original Hardcover – March 7, 2006
From School Library Journal
Grade 2-4–McDonough chronicles Franklins significant accomplishments and contributions in clear, simple prose that captures both the essence of the extraordinary man and of the times in which he lived. Zeldiss trademark folk-art illustrations are bright and vibrant, although page after page of such vivid hues is not easy on the eye. The pictures do not add any additional insight into the text, and sometimes contradict it, as when mention is made that Ben was one of 13 children, all of whom lived in a tiny four-room house, and five oddly sized children are pictured with their mother in a spacious room. James Cross Giblins The Amazing Life of Benjamin Franklin (Scholastic, 2000) gives a more complete picture of the mans life, and Rosalyn Schanzers How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning (HarperCollins, 2003) has more child appeal. Purchase where additional material on Franklin is needed or where Zeldiss work has a following.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In the category of longer picture-book nonfiction, McDonough's The Life of Benjamin Franklin targets an audience slightly less sophisticated than Cheryl Harness', The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin (2005), featuring a simpler, more traditional narrative that strikes a curious contrast with its far-from-traditional artwork. After addressing Franklin's formative years, with special attention paid to his stints as Silence DoGood and Poor Richard, McDonough accessibly explains his political career, passing over rhetoric such as "taxation without representation" in favor of more plainspoken formulations: "[The English] taxed them but did not let them vote." Titles for further reading and appendixes collecting Franklin's best-known maxims and inventions conclude. Zeldis' gouache artwork--faux-naif scenes in expressionistic, even garish colors--often seem more appropriate to a book set in Rio during Carnival than one about nascent democracy in eighteenth-century America. Perhaps, though, there is a rationale for this idiosyncratic pairing: the artist's flattened perspectives (particularly striking in her treatment of facial features) are suggestive of self-taught colonial painters, and the vibrating, jam-packed compositions impart something of the colorful personality and unstinting energy of Franklin himself. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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