Perfect for gift shops across Philadelphia. Less so for readers.

Explore the beginnings of America’s first circulating library with Ben and Billy Franklin.

In 1739, William “Billy” Franklin, son of printer (and future statesman) Benjamin Franklin, starts his studies in earnest with a tutor. Joining Billy’s (somewhat reluctant) academic endeavors is his cousin James. While James is bored with the tutor’s stories, Billy’s imagination goes wild picturing the tales from long ago. Seeing his son’s delight, Ben introduces Billy to the Leather Apron Club library, a library founded by 12 tradesmen like Ben who value education and learning. It’s through this story that readers are introduced to what eventually grew into the first library open to members of the public (provided those members could pay the subscription fee, as the backmatter points out). Billy narrates the meandering story, which may be of more interest to adults than the intended audience. “The men debate Politics and History and Books. / They drink Cider, eat Cake, and debate more— / Mathematics and Geography and Finance. / Though the discussion is above me, / I feel as if I am in Heaven,” he rhapsodizes. The static watercolor illustrations of the virtually all-White cast do little to entice readers. The backmatter does an admirable job summarizing Franklin’s fraught relationship with an adult Billy and addresses his complex relationship with slavery.

Perfect for gift shops across Philadelphia. Less so for readers. (bibliography) (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-58089-719-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021


Thompson uses the time of the Roman Empire as the setting for another horse story for younger readers (Highway Robbery, 2009). Young Marcus recounts the adventure that begins when a hurried slave abruptly turns over care of Emperor Caligula's horse, "Consul" Incitatus, to him. Although there's an undeniable thrill to having the responsibility for such a fine steed, Marcus, a baker's boy, is all too aware of the consequences that could befall his entire family if he should manage this wrong. But he's clever, resourceful and observant, and by paying attention to all the clues of daily life, he manages beautifully. The short page count, fast-paced plot and spot illustrations (not seen) should make this a great title for readers not yet ready for longer fiction. Although Marcus is not quite as unreliable as the earlier book’s narrator, this tale is significantly more sophisticated in both writing and plot than the common chapter-book ruck. Horse lovers will appreciate Incitatus’s horse sense, and fans of such other wily protagonists as Moxy Maxwell and Ivy + Bean will cheer Marcus’s solution. (Historical fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-173037-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010


Krensky spins a wisp of history into a diaphanous tale that's accompanied by arty illustrations that fail to add substance or even a sense of period. Thanks to the popularity of an actual series of reported sightings of “man-bats,” intelligent beavers and other strange life forms on the Moon that ran in the tabloid New York Sun in 1833, fictional newsboys Jake and Charlie enjoy temporary prosperity—meaning they can buy meals, and sleep in a bed rather than an alley at night. Jake’s imagination is fired with the idea that words, “even if they’re not quite true, ... can make us see amazing things,” but the hope that the paper will continue to offer such sensationalistic “news” for them to peddle each day is plainly the sharper concern. Krensky concentrates on conveying the newsboys’ hand-to-mouth existence; the stories themselves and the unsurprising later revelation that they were a hoax draw only brief references and quotes in the narrative. These are supplemented by clipped fragments of illegible printing held by the crudely drawn, sometimes anachronistically dressed figures in Bisaillon’s scraped, mud-colored collages. Don Brown’s Kid Blink Beats the World (2004) brings the life of 19th-century newsboys into sharper focus, and when it comes to examining popular hoaxes, Meghan McCarthy’s Aliens Are Coming! (2006) sets the bar. (afterword) (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7613-5110-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011