I Am Benjamin Franklin: Ordinary People Change the World

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
I Am Benjamin Franklin: Ordinary People Change the World Book Poster Image
Fun, lively, info-packed intro to Founding Father.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

I Am Benjamin Franklin is packed with interesting, fun, relatable information, like how young Ben figured he could swim faster if he had bigger hands and feet -- and invented an early version of swim fins, or getting a kite to pull him across the water. There's also a lot about the history of the times around the American Revolution, the importance of a free press -- and how great documents like the Declaration of Independence are often a collaborative effort.

Positive Messages

As you might expect from a book about the author of Poor Richard's Almanack, I Am Benjamin Franklin has many wise, practical ideas to pass along, including, "If you're willing to experiment, you can learn something new -- and use it to improve things," "History doesn't just happen by itself. It's written -- and built -- and improved upon -- by people like you and me," and "Improve yourself. Improve the world."

Positive Role Models

By any standards, Benjamin Franklin was quite the overachiever, being a Founding Father, an inventor, a writer, a printer, and more -- but he recognized that the most important thing you should work on improving is yourself, which makes you able to improve your world.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Am Benjamin Franklin is a stellar addition to Ordinary People Change the World, the best-selling series of picture-book biographies by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos. This time, the spotlight's on American Founding Father Ben Franklin -- bespectacled, balding, and pint-sized -- as he figures out how to swim faster by inventing swim fins, becomes a successful author and printer, inserts an important word here and there into the Declaration of Independence, flies a kite from a church steeple in a rainstorm and invents the lightning rod... and through it all, emphasizes the importance of improving yourself with lots of practical wisdom.

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What's the story?

Born the youngest son of a very large family, the narrator of I AM BENJAMIN FRANKLIN showed an early talent for paying attention -- and using what you've observed to make things better. For example, when little Ben notices that kids with big hands and feet swim faster, he goes on to invent an early version of swim fins. He goes to work for his brother, a printer, and thinks he'd like to be a writer. But when his brother is having none of it, Ben submits a piece of writing under the name of a fictitious old lady, and a career is born. Over his long life and many accomplishments as a writer, printer, inventor, scientist, and Founding Father, he stressed the importance of constantly working to improve yourself, and then going on to improve the endlessly fascinating world around you.

Is it any good?

Known for his lively interest in practically everything and his nonstop quest for self-improvement, the Founding Father makes a fun, engaging addition to the Ordinary People Change the World series. Author Brad Meltzer and illustrator Christopher Eliopoulos are in top form in I Am Benjamin Franklin, making the most of a  multitalented overachiever of his era, who never lost the joy of discovery or the urge to make things better.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the many inventions described in I Am Benjamin Franklin. Did it surprise you that these things had been invented so long ago? And that they'd been invented by one of the Founding Fathers of the United States?

  • Do you think it would have been good to know Ben when he was a kid? Does anything in the story make you think he would have been a fun person to hang out with?

  • In the book, Benjamin Franklin remarks that none of us is perfect, but we can all make ourselves better people. Do you agree? What might you do in your ordinary life to be a better person?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love biography and history

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