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NOW AND BEN by Gene Barretta


The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin

by Gene Barretta & illustrated by Gene Barretta

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: March 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-8050-7917-3
Publisher: Henry Holt

Sunny cartoons juxtapose now and then in a lighthearted exploration of how Benjamin Franklin’s inventions have survived into the modern age. Although “invention” is a little broadly construed—are political cartoons and Daylight Savings Time, strictly speaking, inventions?—it’s a pretty impressive collection of achievements: The Franklin stove and lightning rods, of course, share space with bifocals, odometers and swim fins. The illustrations are genial enough, and use a lightly humorous touch to make their points (Ben offers an obviously distressed sailor a lime to stave off scurvy). A clean organization that opposes “Now” on the left (dominated by modern blues and greens) and “Ben” on the right (dominated by yellows, Ben’s blue coat standing out) aids in the presentation of the information. It’s an enthusiastic enough effort, but, in an anniversary year bound to be chock-full of Ben Franklin books, such flaws as the absence of suggestions for further reading make it no more than a marginal purchase. Rosalyn Schanzer’s How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning (2003) covers much of the same territory but does it much better. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)