cover image The Life of Benjamin Franklin: An American Original

The Life of Benjamin Franklin: An American Original

Yona Zeldis McDonough. Henry Holt & Company, $17.95 (36pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7856-5

This mother-daughter team (Anne Frank) shapes a dense, well-balanced portrait of Franklin, illuminating his extensive achievements as inventor, businessman, scientist, politician, statesman and ambassador. The picture-book biography opens with a description of Franklin's famous experiment with a kite, key and lightning, then flashes back to his early years. Referring to her subject as ""Ben,"" McDonough's informal, anecdotal narrative includes some youngster-pleasing nuggets about Franklin's childhood. For instance, after the boy wrote a poem at age seven, his parents sent him to school, an opportunity not given to every child; and his love of swimming inspired his very first invention, wooden fins for his hands and feet that enabled him to move faster in the water. The author provides frequent insight into Ben's personality and beliefs, among them a patriotism so fierce that he never forgave his son for siding with the British during the Revolution. Rendered in gouache and framed by boldly hued borders, Zeldis's quirky, primitive folk art features a vivid palette dominated by red, blue and gold. A concluding timeline of Franklin's life, and partial list of his inventions plus a sampling of sayings he published in Poor Richard's Almanack round out this volume, a nice complement to Gene Barretta's Now & Ben (reviewed Jan. 23)-which focuses more closely on Franklin as inventor. Ages 5-9.