Rosalyn Schanzer, Author, Rosalyn Schanzer, Illustrator . HarperCollins $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-688-16993-0

As with her How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark, Schanzer's lively writing and drawing style again makes history come alive. Here she gives appropriate spark to a picture-book overview of Benjamin Franklin's various inventions and scientific experiments, zeroing in on his discovery of lightning's electric power. The statement "It's true!" begins the exhilarating ride. From there the author summarizes, in a succinct and zippy style, many of Franklin's achievements as inventor, statesman, author, entrepreneur, activist, community leader and musician—a Renaissance man of boundless energy ("Didn't the man ever stop to rest?" she wonders). The artwork, a combination of vibrantly colored dyes and ink line, depicts an ebullient Franklin smiling, with his hair flying, as he flits from one role to the next. But the author devotes a significant portion of the book to Franklin's curiosity about electricity (which he believed to be found in lightning) and its potential to cause devastating fires, including the story behind Franklin's famous experiment of flying a kite with a key on its string during a thunderstorm. The compositions, which include period detail and accessible illustrated renditions of Franklin's documented projects and inventions, match the chipper tone of the text. An extensive author's note provides further information on Franklin's life and works, and spiffy endpapers reproduce diagrams and notes from Franklin's papers in Philadelphia's American Philosophical Society. This fitting tribute to a memorable leader emphasizes the playfulness that accompanies a curious mind and the boundless energy required for great accomplishments. Ages 6-12. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/25/2002
Release date: 12/01/2002
Library Binding - 40 pages - 978-0-688-16994-7
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