Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
by Robert Byrd; illus. by the author
Intermediate Dial 40 pp.
9/12 978-0-8037-3749-5 $17.99
With a jacket showing Benjamin Franklin as a cross between a mad scientist and a superhero standing amid wild lightning bolts and surrounded by all manner of electrical devices, this book shimmers with excitement, begging to be read. Byrd divides Franklin’s life into seventeen often whimsically labeled double-page spreads, beginning with his childhood and ending with his death. Two such spreads (“Coaxing Sparks from the Sky” and “The Wonderful Effects of Points”) deal with his fascination with electricity, with the remainder covering topics ranging from his ideas for social progress (such as a lending library and fire department) to his diplomatic roles before, during, and after the American Revolution. An informative, exploratory, nonpandering text (“Franklin’s expertise lay in making the most of the printed page, delighting those who agreed with him, and disarming those who did not; always keeping all parties anticipating his next move”) is set amid an attractive page layout. Nicely developed and designed spot art and larger illustrations on every page serve as internal end notes, explaining tangential information, giving more detail to certain ideas, and providing a visual record of Ben’s life and times. An author’s note, timeline, bibliography, and recommended readings complete the book.