HOW BEN FRANKLIN STOLE THE LIGHTNING

The author of Davy Crockett Saves the World (2001) builds a convincing case for adding Ben Franklin to the pantheon of American tall-tale heroes. To comic scenes featuring a gnomic, potbellied Franklin jovially presenting various inventions, experiments, and incidents from his life, Schanzer adds a rousing litany of feats and abilities: “Why, Ben Franklin could swim faster, argue better, and write funnier stories than practically anyone in colonial America. He was a musician, a printer, a cartoonist and a world traveler!” And “he really did steal lightning right out of the sky! And then he set out to tame the beast.” How? With a series of experiments, including the famous one with the kite—luckily, the storm wasn’t a severe one, or “the great inventor would have been toast”—and then the introduction of the lightning rod, which has saved thousands of lives over the years. Capped by an afterword that adds even more luster to Franklin’s career, this effervescent tribute will give legions of young readers a peerless role model, whose actual, well-documented deeds need no exaggeration. (source note) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-688-16993-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY

This fervent but sketchy tribute to the world’s best known living athlete gives young readers stylized, spray-painted views of a comic book–style superhero with hugely exaggerated muscles and, generally, an open mouth, paired to eye-glazing captions. “As a boy, he struggled to make his way in the segregated world of the PRE-CIVIL RIGHTS SOUTH.” Shange makes a case for dubbing Ali a “hero for all time,” but aside from a later quote of the subtitle, she mentions his way with rhyme only as a boy, and ends her account of his boxing career with 1974’s “Rumble in the Jungle,” seven years before his last fight. The appended chronology addresses that lack, but skips from 1981 to 1996, and refers to his Parkinson’s Disease without explaining what it is—or its probable cause. Next to the strong prose and evocative art of Walter Dean Myers’s Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins (2000), or the grandeur of Doreen Rappaport’s Martin’s Big Words, illustrated by Brian Collier (2001), this portrait of a widely admired African-American comes off as more strident than inspirational. (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-7868-0554-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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