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

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A BEN OF ALL TRADES

THE MOST INVENTIVE BOYHOOD OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

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. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter

MALALA'S MAGIC PENCIL

The latest of many picture books about the young heroine from Pakistan, this one is narrated by Malala herself, with a frame that is accessible to young readers.

Malala introduces her story using a television show she used to watch about a boy with a magic pencil that he used to get himself and his friends out of trouble. Readers can easily follow Malala through her own discovery of troubles in her beloved home village, such as other children not attending school and soldiers taking over the village. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations give a strong sense of setting, while gold ink designs overlay Malala’s hopes onto her often dreary reality. The story makes clear Malala’s motivations for taking up the pen to tell the world about the hardships in her village and only alludes to the attempt on her life, with a black page (“the dangerous men tried to silence me. / But they failed”) and a hospital bracelet on her wrist the only hints of the harm that came to her. Crowds with signs join her call before she is shown giving her famous speech before the United Nations. Toward the end of the book, adult readers may need to help children understand Malala’s “work,” but the message of holding fast to courage and working together is powerful and clear.

An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter . (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-31957-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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