Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Ben Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom from A-Z

Ben Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom from A-Z

Alan Schroeder
Illustrator:  John O'Brien 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Holiday House, 2011   ISBN: 978-0823424351

Ben Franklin was an extraordinary man. Among other things he was a scholar, an inventor, a philosopher, a revolutionary, a diplomat, an author, a musician, a composer, a chess player, a scientist, an author, and a printer. In 1773 Franklin wrote and published the first of his Poor Richard’s Almanacks. In addition to giving his readers the usual material found in almanacs at that time such as calendars and weather forecasts, Franklin also included many clever sayings, many of which are commonly used in some form today.

   In this excellent book the author explores the many things that Franklin did in his long life, and he presents the information using an alphabet book format. Every letter of the alphabet has at least two topics that are explored, and often there are more. For example for the letter B we are given the topics Boston, bifocals and balloon. As we read, we find out that Franklin was born in Boston, which was one of the largest cities in America during colonial times. He invented bifocals, and when he was in France in 1783, Franklin saw the first passenger-carrying hot air balloon rise up into the air.

   Some of the topics will be familiar with readers. Many of us know about Franklin’s experiments with kites during electrical storms, but he also tried to find out about other things. He was particularly fascinated by the ocean and studied “currents, wind direction, water and air temperatures, and plant and animal life.”

   People may know about his revolutionary war service, but he also served the American people in many other ways. He founded a public college, started the first subscription library in the country, and he convinced people that Philadelphia needed a hospital.

   In addition to the sections of text, the book is full of wonderful illustrations and every double page spread includes at least one of his Poor Richard’s Almanack sayings. These include: “Honest is the best policy,” “There was never a good war or a bad peace,” and “Never leave till tomorrow which you can do today.”

   Readers will learn a great deal about Benjamin Franklin as they read this book. They will discover that he was unique, sometimes quirky, and that he would have been a fascinating person to meet.