A BEN OF ALL TRADES

THE MOST INVENTIVE BOYHOOD OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

An effectively presented and surprising slice of Benjamin Franklin’s childhood.

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)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0121-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

BASKETBALL DREAMS

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...

A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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