Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The mostly true story of his first invention

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The mostly true story of his first invention

Barb Rosenstock
Illustrator:  S.D. Schindler 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Boyds Mills Press, 2014   ISBN: 978-1620914465

Long before Benjamin Franklin was a famous publisher, inventor, statesman and diplomat, he was a rather precocious boy who liked to get out of working in his father’s soap making workshop whenever possible. He would run away to the river where he would strip off his clothes and jump into the water.

   At this time in America’s history very few people bathed, let alone went swimming. Even sailors did not know how to swim. Ben loved to swim and as he splashed around he thought about his future. Being a curious boy he also wondered why he could not swim like a fish. He wondered if the shape of fish’s bodies made them better swimmers. They also had fins, which clearly helped them move through the water. Ben couldn’t very well change his body shape so that it would be streamlined, like the bodies of fish, but he might be able to fabricate some fins.

   Ben set about making some fins which he could strap to his hands, and when they were ready he went to the river to try them out. The fins helped Ben to swim faster for a while until his arms and hands got to sore. Something was missing.

   In this engaging and cleverly presented picture book we see how Benjamin Franklin set about trying to solve a problem. Though his experiment did not work out as planned, the experience did teach the boy a very important lesson about problem solving, and he also learned that failure does not mean you should stop. It means that you should keep on “seeking, studying, and struggling” until you succeed.

   At the back of the book readers will find out about some of Benjamin Franklin’s inventions, and an author’s note provides readers with further information about Benjamin Franklin’s attitude to problem solving and his incredibly creative and curious mind.