An African-American inventor of the 18th-century designs and builds a new-style clock.
A young Benjamin Banneker is fascinated by mechanical things. After taking apart a borrowed pocket watch, he studies all the parts and how they work. Fascinated, he is determined to build a big clock and spends the next two years doing just that. Keller does a good job detailing the process: what works and what does not. Banneker sketches and designs and even realizes that he can age the wood he is using in the same manner that his family cures tobacco on their Maryland farm. After much trial and error and scientific thought, Banneker succeeds. Unfortunately, it is only in the author’s note that readers learn that Banneker was born a free black in 1731. Even in a title stressing his inventive genius, his uncommon free status should warrant explicit mention and explanation within the text. Gardner’s soft-toned watercolor illustrations follow the seasonal changes in Maryland while also depicting Banneker’s many other talents, such as playing the flute. It is a peaceful, idyllic existence in a quiet and pleasant book.
Of greater use in STEM units than in American history studies. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)