Monday, April 28, 2008

NonFiction Monday: Now & Ben

Dewey: 609/.2

Now & Ben: the modern inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Barretta, Henry Holt, 2006

As soon as the reader opens this book the endpapers display a timeline noting Franklin's numerous inventions and progressive ideas.

Barretta's opening illustration depicts Franklin's many roles as a writer, diplomat, printer, musician, postmaster humorist, scientist, inventor, traveler, philosopher, cartoonist, statesman inscribed on cobblestones while Ben stands framed in a style reminiscent of the one hundred dollar bill.

The book describes Franklin's inventions and ideas and depicts how those ideas are still in use in the present.

Experiments with lightning lead to the invention of the lightning rod. A store clerk uses the Grabber for grabbing a box of cereal that is out of reach, while on the opposing page Franklin uses his Long Arm to reach a book high on a shelf.

His See Far/See Near became today's bifocals and his improvements to fireplace design helped move smoke out of houses. He designed the first clock with a second hand and as the reader looks at a school bus driver checking the mileage on the odometer and we see Ben's odometer on a cart which was used while he was postmaster general to measure postal routes.

Barretta shares the information with humor. We see an alarm clock buzzing at 6 a.m. with the moon still high in sky while bleary eyed kids struggle to struggle to wake up. Franklin advocated the idea of daylight savings as a means to save candles and gain more daylight for farmers.

Benjamin Franklin is the Founding Father of choice to study in depth here in 5th grade. His extraordinary life lends itself to many areas of the curriculum. This is terrifically engaging nonfiction picture book that would be great fun to share with students.

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