cover image The Hatmaker's Sign: A Story by Benjamin Franklin

The Hatmaker's Sign: A Story by Benjamin Franklin

Candace Fleming, Robert Andrew Parker. Orchard Books (NY), $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-531-30075-6

Fleming (Gabriella's Song) offers a piquant retelling of a story that master raconteur Benjamin Franklin relayed ""to heal the hurt pride"" of Thomas Jefferson, whose draft of the Declaration of Independence was being picked apart by the quibbling Continental Congress. In this tale within a tale, a hatmaker drafts copy for a sign for his shop. En route to the sign maker, however, he encounters a string of opinionated people who whittle away his words to, quite literally, nothing. Young readers will easily appreciate the irony of the kind sign maker's suggestion that the hatmaker fill his sign with the very proclamation he began with. Franklin concludes, ""No matter what you write, or how well you write it, if the public is going to read it, you can be sure they will want to change it."" Working in ink and watercolor, Parker (Pop Corn and Ma Goodness) contributes his sketchy style, a deft approach that focuses on Franklin's wit rather than his more serious message. And like the beleaguered hatmaker, Fleming has chosen her words with care, delivering an insightful parable and a welcome addition to the wealth of lore surrounding the remarkable Benjamin Franklin. Endnotes include further information about Franklin, Jefferson and the writing of the Declaration of Independence; like the story, they will whet readers' appetites for American history. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)