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This flat, factual chronicle might be an alternative to the several fictionalized portraits of Franklin for this age level if the plethora of particulars was accompanied by equivalent attention to circumstances. The historical background is particularly paltry (in one sentence, ""A mob fought against soldiers, and the Boston Massacre was the result""), and when it bears directly on Franklin's activities, the result can be chaotic: the struggles against the Penns continuing, F. is ""sent to England to present a petition. Strong voices had been raised to ask the king to take over the government of the colony. Franklin was building a handsome new house. . . . He arrived in the midst of controversy over the Stamp Act. George III wanted to be a powerful ruler. . . ."" Again and again, an Act or action precedes explanation, and that insufficient: thus, hostility against Franklin erupts in Philadelphia following passage of the Stamp Act, and he is accused of ""having framed it for personal profit""--unexplained--whereas, misjudging the temper of the colonies, he had taken steps to comply. And when later he is off to France, the nature of the mission is inserted at the end of a paragraph regretting that he had to make another journey (""He had already given richly of himself to his country""), and the nature of the ""aid"" he sought is unspecified. Similarly, ""he came to believe that electricity was a single fluid"" appears without explanation that this was a useful hypothesis, instrumental but not definitive. Lacking spirit, this also lacks appropriate substance.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1970
Publisher: Putnam