A Ben of all trades The most inventive boyhood of Benjamin Franklin

Michael J. Rosen, 1954-

Book - 2020

"Young Benjamin Franklin wants to be a sailor, but his father won't hear of it. The other trades he tried bored him through and through. But each time he fails to find a career, he took some important bit of knowledge with him, and that tendency is exactly what made him the versatile genius we remember today." -- inside front jacket flap.

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jBIOGRAPHY/Franklin, Benjamin
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Picture books
Somerville, MA : Candlewick Press 2020.
Main Author
Michael J. Rosen, 1954- (author)
Other Authors
Matt Tavares (illustrator)
First edition
Item Description
"Inspired by The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin." -- inside front jacket flap.
Physical Description
1 volume (unpaged) : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 31 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Before Benjamin Franklin was one of America's Founding Fathers, he was a swimming-obsessed boy in Boston who wanted to be a sailor. But his candlemaker father had other plans for him. Inspired by Franklin's memoirs, Rosen recreates young Ben's path to finding a suitable trade in this picture-book biography. When Ben's father encourages him to apprentice with a joiner, a boot closer, a turner, and a chandler, the boy finds making identical wooden dowels, dipping identical candles, and other chores monotonous. Breaking these routines are Ben's playful swimming and kite experiments, much to the chagrin of his practical father. Finally, printing, with its opportunities for reading and creativity, becomes a satisfying apprenticeship. Paralleling this discovery is a culminating experiment that combines all the skills he learned from his brief stints with tradesmen. In the process, Rosen depicts Ben as a budding inventor, hints at more kite experiments to come, and adds more about Ben's life in a concluding author's note. Tavares' photo-realistic illustrations offer charm and fine details to this blend of history and technology.--Angela Leeper Copyright 2020 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Rosen (The Horse's Haiku) expands a segment of Benjamin Franklin's childhood to reveal his early motivations and character traits. A straightforward narrative with invented, formal dialogue follows novelty-seeking young Franklin as he tries in vain to convince his father that he's suitable for a sea-faring life. With the help of a book, he masters swimming techniques and adds his own innovations, such as swim paddles and a kite for additional speed. Tavares (Dasher) creates light-infused, multitextured digital illustrations that depict Franklin's spirited escapades in colonial Boston and more somber scenes of Franklin trying, and discarding, apprenticeships. "I fear my mind is unsuited for the craft," he says of candle making and other highly repetitive tasks. An extensive note explains the author's use of creative license, noting that the largely imagined vignettes are based on Franklin's autobiography. A brief bibliography concludes this detailed view of a Renaissance man whose young tenacity and eventual work at his sibling's print shop led to an extraordinarily varied adult life. Ages 5--9. (Mar.)

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Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 2--5--As a young boy, Benjamin Franklin loved swimming and dreamed of a future on the high seas. His father, on the other hand, encouraged his son to find an occupation far from the dangers of the open ocean. Franklin tried everything, from dipping candles to making shoes, but nothing held his attention for long. He crafted a kite to increase the speed of his swimming, but that didn't help him land useful employment. Finally, with his father's encouragement, Franklin found his ideal occupation: printing pamphlets and newspapers in his brother's print shop. Tavares's illustrations bring the rich world of 18th-century dockside to life and include details such as the colonial style of dress (bonnets and tricorn hats), tall ships docked in Boston Harbor, and Union Jack flags rippling in the breeze. Rosen explains the deliberate use of language and speech patterns authentic to the time period. While some children may struggle with the unfamiliar rhythm and words, the meaning of the terms become clear within the context of the narrative. However, the inclusion of a glossary defining words such as joiner, chandler, and indentures may have been helpful. That said, this book is an excellent resource for discussions of American colonial life in social studies classrooms and beyond. VERDICT History lovers will relish this glimpse into the inquisitive childhood of Benjamin Franklin.--Alyssa Annico, Youngstown State University, OH

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Review by Horn Book Review

Before the bifocals, the lighting rod, the ambassadorship, and all the rest of his many accomplishments, Ben Franklin knew precisely what he wanted to be when he grew up: a sailor. As a child, he spends his time reading and improving his swimming skills in the nearby Mill Pond and Charles River; Tavaress expansive illustrations show him testing his handmade paddles and even being pulled through the water by a wind-filled kite, like a human sailboat. Having lost one son to the sea, Bens father emphatically refuses to entertain such a course for him and introduces him to a number of different trades. But each is too repetitive, and none appeals to Ben. Bens face shines with joy when he is in the water but turns solemn while hes at work he considers boring. Finally having run out of his fathers options, Ben signs on as a journeyman in his brothers print shop, where the work suits him because of its variety and allows him to blossom into his later roles. Not one job was exactly like the one before, but he excelled at each career by applying the diverse knowledge hed gained and the insightful curiosity that seemed insatiable. This historical-fiction picture book (Rosen was inspired by Franklins Memoirs and worked to open out Franklins brief recollections in order to compose a realistic story you would enjoy) is appended with a historical note, authors and illustrators notes concerning their processes, and a brief bibliography. Betty Carter March/April 2020 p.71(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

While Josiah Franklin seeks the right trade for his son, young Benjamin follows other pursuits.Growing up in Colonial Boston, Benjamin loves reading and swimming. Eschewing his father's candle making trade, Benjamin longs to be a sailor, but Josiah refuses. Worried his son's becoming an "aimless woolgatherer," Josiah unsuccessfully apprentices him to a joiner, a shoemaker, and a turner. Benjamin prefers swimming in Mill Pond, where he experiments with wooden paddles as flippers and a kite, using wind to pull himself through the water. Eventually, Josiah realizes Benjamin's a boy of many trades and indentures him in a print shop, where he can "read and study and write" to his heart's content. Expanding several incidents from Franklin's Memoirs, this story reveals Franklin as a likable boy whose eclectic childhood interests led to his amazing life. Realistic, carefully executed watercolor-and-pencil illustrations in browns, grays, blues, and yellows effectively use light and varied perspectives to add drama to this formative period in Franklin's life. Scenes of Benjamin sampling tedious trades alternate with upbeat scenes of him swimming, playing to the story's theme. Text panels from antique books surrounded by Colonial-era nautical maps reflect Franklin's interest in books and the sea, reinforcing the authentic period setting. The focus is on Benjamin and his close circle, all white.An effectively presented and surprising slice of Benjamin Franklin's childhood. (author's note, illustrator's note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.