Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Benjamin Franklin Children's Book Recommendations (Part 2)

"He that scatters thorns, let him not go barefoot." - Benjamin Franklin

I have a confession to make - I'm a nerd.  There, I admitted it.  Why am I a nerd?  Because I actually enjoy history and learning about people and events of the past.

My favorite way to learn and teach history (especially American history) is to read children's books and take field trips.  As I mentioned last week, general Benjamin Franklin children's book biographies abound at my local library, but I did find a few that focused on specific events our portions of his life.

Here are my 5 favorites:

Picture Books

Ben Franklin's Glass Armonica by Bryna Stevens.  Illustrated by Priscilla Kiedrowski.  Published by Carolrhoda Books, 1983.

Did you know Franklin invented a musical instrument that both Mozart and Beethoven composed music for?  I didn't either.  Franklin created the instrument by using different sized glass bowls laid on their sides.  Think of running your finger around the rim of a crystal glass and you'll get the idea behind Franklin's Armonica.

Stevens explains why Franklin developed the armonica.  She then describes how the armonica was built and it's popularity in Europe.  I love the focus on such an obscure detail from Franklin's life!

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The Hatmaker's Sign:  A Story by Benjamin Franklin.  Retold by Candace Fleming.  Illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker.  Published by Orchard Books, 1998.

After spending his time and energy drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson listened to the Continental Congress debate and change his document.  His friend, Benjamin Franklin, noticed his frustration and anger at all of the alterations and told Jefferson a parable about a hat maker who wanted to have a sign made for his shop.

Fleming does an excellent job of retelling Franklin's story and Parker's illustrations keep the reader visually interested.  Again, the book highlights a little known event from Franklin's life.

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How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightening by Rosalyn Schanzer.  Published by Harper Collins, 2003.


Schanzer gives an overview of Franklin's life in the first half of this book.  Then during the second half she focuses on Franklin's experiments with electricity and his famous kite flight.  My favorite part is the explanation of how the kite experiment worked.  There was more to it than lightening striking a kite but you'll have to read the book to find out for yourself.
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Early Readers

Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares by Frank Murphy.  Illustrated by Richard Walz.  Published by Random House.

Ben Franklin is bored while listening to the Pennsylvania Colonial Assembly debate and discuss various bills.  In order to stay awake he invents a new mathematical puzzle.  The puzzle is a grid like ticktacktoe with numbers arranged so that each row, column and diagonal row add up to 15.  (It reminds me of Suduko puzzles.)

As a "Step into Reading" book, a student can practice his reading skills while learning about Franklin and a fun math puzzle.  He'll be having so much fun he won't even notice he's learning something.  

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Ben Franklin and His First Kite written by Stephen Krensky.  Illustrated by Bert Dodson.  Published by Aladdin an imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2002.

A level 2 "Ready-to-Read" book from the "Childhood of Famous Americans" series this book provides a glimpse of the young Ben Franklin.  Even as a child Franklin invented contraptions and conducted experiments.  Here we learn that young Ben wanted a way to swim across the pond faster, so he used a kite to pull him across the water.  Sort of a precursor to wind sailing.

I think this book inspires children to think creatively and look for solutions to everyday problems in their lives by telling the story of a real boy and his real experiment.  A fun read for energetic and inquisitive boys!


I love learning new things and these books have been a ton of fun!!  It's too bad we don't live close enough to Philadelphia to visit any of the Benjamin Franklin related tourist sites!

Now that I've confessed my nerd status, I want to know - are you are nerd, too?  Do you enjoy reading historical children's books?  What about non-fiction?

You might also be interested in:

5 comments:

Amy said...

I do enjoy history and reading these books to my children...does that make me a nerd?!

Thanks for the recommendations. I just requested a bunch of Washington/Lincoln books from our library. I used the authors that you were recommending for Franklin and look forward to getting them in!

Carrie said...

The illustrations in BF Stole the Lightning look to be really cute. I like the cover art at any rate!

Stephanie's Mommy Brain said...

Amy, I would never say YOU are a nerd. :) Great idea looking for the authors. I also recommend looking for anything by certain publishers. Scholastic Press is a standard for children's books. Nomad Press as a lot of great books as well. Sylvan Dell has wonderful science related books. And Sleeping Bear Press has FABULOUS history/geography books.

Stephanie's Mommy Brain said...

Carrie, they are REALLY cute! They have kind of a cartoon quality to them that children (and me!) like.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Yes, I am most definitely a nerd, and proud of it! Thanks for the recommendations, once again!

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