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A DANGEROUS ENGINE by Joan Dash Kirkus Star


Benjamin Franklin, from Scientist to Diplomat

by Joan Dash & illustrated by Dušan Petričić

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 2006
ISBN: 0-374-30669-9
Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Dash ably covers Franklin’s life from first days to last, but what sets this apart from the plethora of similar portraits is her particular focus on his lifelong interest in science and invention. Ever the amateur, he gathered a group of like-minded “Franklinists” to perform electrical experiments and pranks, like electrifying the iron fence around his house, “for the amusement of visitors,” writes Dash. He took measurements of the Gulf Stream, closely observed natural phenomena on land and sea, fiddled with magic squares and corresponded regularly with many fellow enquirers on both sides of the Atlantic—along with inventing (though deliberately never patenting) a stove, the lightning rod, bifocals, the “glass armonica” and much else. Characterizing Franklin as a “speckled” man, who “changed, took up new roles, found new motives within himself” over his long career, Dash also recounts his later diplomatic triumphs in full, without glossing over his youthful misadventures or occasional lack of candor. Readers will come away with a profound understanding of this great man’s mind, heart, achievements and—with some help from Petricic’s witty line drawings—sense of fun. (annotated bibliography, end notes) (Biography. 12+)