Monday, July 21, 2008

Ben Franklin's Almanac by Candace Fleming

Ben Franklin’s Almanac: Being a True Account of the Good Gentleman’s Life by Candace Fleming

But as I read Ben’s letters and essays, looked at pictures of his family, and uncovered Franklin stories and anecdotes, I began to see him differently. Innovative, vulgar, sometimes heroic, sometimes flawed, the incredibly complex Ban Franklin I discovered beguiled me, and I was no longer satisfied to tell his story in a ordinary way. I needed a form that would illuminate each of the many facets of his life—the vastness of his interests and accomplishments, and the deep commitment he made to each one….And like a scrapbook, the stories of Ben’s life has been centered around visuals—portraits, etchings, cartoons, and sketches. These images—most created long ago—will bring you face-to-face with history, and help you to connect with Ben the person, rather than just a name and dates. You will actually see Ben’s childhood home. You will see his electrical equipment, the faces of his family, the first pages of his most famous writings. And hopefully, like the individual pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, these snapshots will come together and a whole picture of Ben Franklin will emerge.” ~Candace Fleming

This middle grade non-fiction biography of Ben Franklin’s life includes multiple, cartoons, pictures, images that come directly from Franklin’s own life. The Biography is not organized in a chronological form, but by chapter theme. Some chapter topics are: “Boyhood Memories,” “A Family Album,” “Tokens of Well-Lived life,” and “Revolutionary Memorabilia.” This book totals 120 pages, and includes a Year-by-Year look at Ben’s life, a bibliography, picture sources, and recommendations for books and websites about Ben for Younger readers.
The instant I opened this book I absolutely adored it! I seriously love this book! Each of the pages is typeset to looks exactly like a pamphlet, broadside, newspaper or almanac from the colonial era, except the print is far more legible. Most of the images or pictures are from the time-period, something the Ben would have printed, or seen himself during his lifetime. They are all black and white, and add to the illusion that you are reading from an old book. The book has fun little anecdotes and stories about Ben’s life, and illustrates his humor, wit, and intelligence. I wonder if the book should be for middle grade readers, since Franklin’s prose is a product of his time and a bit hard to understand at times. Still each page has a layout that looks like old newspaper articles, complemented with pictures. These little articles are small and approachable to read, and I can see myself as a small student browsing through and reading the small articles and looking at the pictures. Then as I became an older student going through and reading some of the longer passages and learning the more complex background behind Franklin’s life and inventions. This truly is an innovative and versatile scrapbook of Ben’s life that will bring entertainment to readers of all ages. The history major in me applauds.

This book is a James Madison Honor Book, and had won multiple other awards. The author has published several other scrapbook looks into the life of American Heroes and also writes fiction. Check out her other work at her website:

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