Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Dangerous Engine: Benjamin Franklin, From Scientist to Diplomat

A Dangerous Engine: Benjamin Franklin, From Scientist to Diplomat

Joan Dash
Illustrator:  Dusan Petricic 
For ages 12 and up
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005   ISBN: 978-0374306694

Often Benjamin Franklin is seeing as being that benevolent old man who conducted experiments with electricity, who invented bifocal glasses, who took some part in the American Revolution, and who wrote a humorous and entertaining almanac. In actuality Benjamin Franklin was much more than this. For one thing he was a serious scientist who conducted very careful experiments and who discussed his thoughts and findings with scientists all over the world.

More importantly perhaps Benjamin Franklin was willing to put his interests and investigations aside so that he could serve his countrymen. He went and lived in London for many years endeavoring to repair the fragile relationship between the American colonies and Great Britain. Benjamin strongly believed, at first, that the colonies should remain tied to the mother country. This opinion did change however after he was very rudely treated by the authorities in London. Clearly they were not interested in negotiating with the Americans – they wanted to dictate instead.

Not long after his time in London ended, Benjamin was sent to Paris. It was hoped he would be able to solidify his country’s relationship with the French and get their help in the war with the British. Benjamin’s formidable diplomatic skills ended up paying off and he was able to secure much needed help from the French. He also succeeded in winning the admiration and devotion of the French people, who thought the world of the odd looking American gentleman with his simple clothes and his sharp mind. Clearly there was a lot more to Benjamin Franklin than he let on.

In this interesting book the author gives her readers a fascinating picture of one of America’s great men. She lets us decide for ourselves what to think of this man who was always curious about the world around him, who felt very strongly about serving his colony and his people, and who at the same time did not respond to his wife’s pleas that he come home to her. Clearly, like all people, Benjamin had his faults, and yet he was undoubtedly devoted to the cause of his country and he did the best he could under very difficult circumstances.