A Ben of All Trades by Michael J. Rosen

A Ben of All Trades: the Most Inventive Boyhood of Benjamin Franklin by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Matt Tavares. Candlewick, 2020, 30 pages.

Reading Level: Picture Book, ages 4-8

Recommended for: ages 5-10

Ben likes books because they are all different. He does not like candlemaking because they are all the same. But candlemaking is his father Josiah’s trade and, naturally enough, the first trade young Ben tries. But not the trade he wants. He wants to be a sailor—an opportunity to see new places and new people and be surrounded by water! (for he’s a fine swimmer). His father, having lost one son to the sea, won’t have it. So Ben tries apprenticing to a turner, joiner, and cobbler, always with the same result: monotony and dissatisfaction. But his own older brother’s print shop—that might finally be an occupation to suit his restless mind and inventive hands.

The story, told in narrative style with period idioms, matches what we know of Franklin’s wide interests and multi talents. The full color illustrations, many on double-page spreads, capture the boy’s exuberance and joy in discovery (that would later serve the founding father well in a variety of vital roles). America was lucky to have him, and he was lucky to have America.

Overall rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.75
  • Artistic/literary value: 5

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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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