History books are usually met with enthusiasm here at the House of Hope. Alphabet books, however, are not. In Ben Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom from A to Z, Alan Schroeder has written a nonfiction picture book that combines history (and and biography!) into an A to Z format that even my alphabet-dissing girls enjoy.
Ben Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom from A to Z is set up, as one might expect, so that topics that relate to Ben Franklin are arranged alphabetically. For example, the letter A is for Almanac, Abiah (Franklin’s mother), Apprentice, and Armonica (a musical instrument invented by Franklin). Each topic is explained with what I would consider a fair amount of detail; for example, the short explanation of apprentice states that Ben Franklin worked as one under his brother, but they didn’t get along. Most of the topics include more information than that, but I think it helps flesh Ben Franklin out a little more to know that even as a young man (aged 12 when he was first apprenticed), he obviously had his own opinions and wasn’t afraid to share them. Later in the book we learn that Franklin loved chess and would sometimes get so involved in a game he’d stay up all night to finish it. Also included is the little tidbit that Franklin suffered from gout which made it difficult for him to be mobile. These and dozens of more little snippets of Franklin’s life give us a picture of the man, as well as his impact on history and what life was like in colonial America. Sprinkled throughout the text are little rectangular banners and signs containing Franklin’s famous aphorisms that further serve to illuminate his personality and impact. John O’Brien‘s watercolor-and-ink illustrations make an already excellent book that much better. His attention to detail is superb, with each page brimming over with both large and small drawings. (The small drawings, many of which illustrated the aphorisms, are my favorite!) This is a book to pore over. My girls and I read this one in one sitting, although I think ideally it might best be spread out over hours or days. It really is jam-packed with interesting an humorous information. It is a book that can be enjoyed by almost anyone, from early elementary-aged through adult. Highly Recommended! (Holiday House, 2011)
This week’s Nonfiction Monday round-up is at Shelf Employed. This book was nominated in the picture nonfiction category for the Cybils, so I’m also including it in my own Armchair Cybils challenge. Like many, many other worthy titles, this one didn’t make the shortlist, but it’s too good to miss!