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)