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Last year I shared a blog post about how my kids and I are fans of the Ordinary People Change the World book series by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. This is the book series that inspired Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum on PBS Kids. I really appreciate how these books and the TV show give kids role models that are worth looking up to. These are all people I absolutely want my kids to emulate and want to follow in their footsteps.
I was gifted copies of the two newest books in the series: I am Benjamin Franklin and I am Anne Frank to review. This post reviews I am Benjamin Franklin, and I have a separate post featuring my I am Anne Frank book review.
Benjamin Franklin certainly is a STEAM role model; and my kids and I learned in this book about his many inventions and scientific achievements.
I also had the opportunity to interview both Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos about these books! I was a little starstruck to get the opportunity to interview this successful author/illustrator duo, and I am so excited to share our conversation with you below, following the review.
I am Benjamin Franklin tells the story of Benjamin Franklin starting from his childhood in a tiny house with 12 siblings, and his curiosity about the world around him. We learn about his childhood experiments like making paddles and a kite to help him swim faster. He loved reading and writing. He learned about newspapers from his older brother, who owned an independent paper in Boston.
We follow Benjamin as he travels to Philadelphia to build and better his life. He worked hard to better himself and wanted to share his wisdom with others. He opened his own newspaper where he shared differing options.
We also learn about his many experiments and scientific contributions. He discovered colds are contagious, proved dark colors absorb more heat than light colors, storm movement tracking that led to weather predicting, invented bifocals, and figured out electricity and the lightning rod.
The book also explains that he is probably best know for playing an important role in American history as a founding father. His contributions to our country have earned him a spot as the face of the $100 bill.
My Book Review:
It’s been awhile since I learned about Benjamin Franklin in school. I felt like I learned so much about him from this book. My kids were very fascinated by him and all that he has achieved. Of course they were impressed by his lightening rod experiment. They also liked his childhood experiments around swimming.
The more I learned about Benjamin Franklin from this book, the more I was awed by all he achieved in his lifetime. I like how simply and clearly his life of achievements were written and presented in this book.
My son was interested throughout the whole book and asked me lots of questions as we were reading. I love when he asks me questions while we’re reading because it tells me he is engaged and wants to know more.
I noticed the theme of, “if you want to change the world start with yourself” throughout Benjamin Franklin’s story. This is something my kids and I certainly would benefit to take to heart. It’s import to be the person you want to see reflected back at you in the world.
STEAM Concepts Learned:
I think Benjamin Franklin’s STEAM contributions can be summarized by this quote from the book:
“I was a printer, a writer, an inventor, a scientist, a scholar, and a Founding Father. You don’t have to be just one thing. But you do need to be a good person. You can always improve yourself. You can always improve your world.I am Benjamin Franklin by Brad Meltzer
There are countless ways to do it: Look for problems that need solving. Experiment and find solutions. Help the people in your community. And of course, use your voice—speak up and speak the truth.”
Benjamin Franklin didn’t settle for being just one thing. He was always learning, always trying to better himself and others. That is a great philosophy to follow for anyone interested in STEM. You don’t have to limit yourself to just one thing.
Interview with Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos
Engineering Emily (EE): You feature the heroes in your stories as children rather than as the accomplished adults they become. How did you come up with this idea, and how did you decide to illustrate them still featuring their adult characteristics as children?
Brad Meltzer (BM): For us, it’s a very conscious choice: Each book tells the story of the hero when THEY were a kid. We see them as children. So it’s not just Amelia Earhart and Abraham Lincoln being famous — it’s them being just like us. Then kids can relate. They can see that each hero was just like them. As a result, for our kids and for us, these aren’t just the stories of famous people. They’re what we’re all capable of on our very best days.
Christopher Eliopoulos (CE): When we first started the project, the idea was to show historical figures when they were children, so our young readers could relate. We felt like children should know that all these amazing people were once kids like them, so we decided to portray them as kids throughout to remind the reader that they can have the same qualities these historical figures. Why tried portraying them older, but when we did, the book lost its magic.
EE: Who has been your favorite STEM hero to have featured in an Ordinary People Change the World book?
BM: Jane Goodall. She redefined how we study animals – and how we see women as scientists. Plus, my daughter just FELL IN LOVE with Chris’s drawings. She’s proof that when you do what you love, you can change the world with it. Also, she sent us this pic.
And Ben Franklin. Just love the breath and curiosity in his work.
CE: Marie Currie. Scientists are always portrayed as stoic, boring people, but Currie once wore out shoes dancing. She was brilliant and determined. She makes a great person for boys and girls to look up to.
EE: I love the quote in the book, “I was a printer, a writer, an inventor, a scientist, a scholar, and a Founding Father. You don’t have to be just one thing.” I’ve been trying to teach my kids that they can be interested and good at more than one thing. What else do you consider yourself besides author, and illustrator?
BM: Father, husband, dreamer, public speaker, comic book writer, man who can say the alphabet backwards.
CE: In high school, I played drums in every band. These days I run marathons and I’ve been writing my own books.
EE: Since I’m passionate about STEAM, Benjamin Franklin’s scientific achievements and inventions are why I admire him so much. What do you consider Benjamin Franklin’s greatest gift to our society?
BM: Everyone says lightning rod, but the way my eyes are aging, I’m going with bifocals — reading glasses! Plus the subscription library. I love libraries.
CE: The obvious one is the electric rod. How many structures were saved by the lightning rod?
EE: What characteristic of Benjamin Franklin do you most hope your kids will emulate?
BM: That the way you change the world is by changing yourself. That’s such a simple, yet powerful idea. And one kids – and adults – need to learn.
CE: His curiosity. He always wanted to learn and discover. Aiming high and striving to better yourself is the ultimate goal and he sets a great example…plus he did it with a sense of humor.
To read more of my interview with Brad and Chris, please see the I am Anne Frank blog post.
Benjamin Franklin has always been someone I enjoyed learning about, and this book helped reinforce just how special a person he was. I recommend this book for all curious kids who enjoy learning. Benjamin Franklin was always learning and looking for ways to better himself and those are traits I’d like my kids to emulate.
If you are interested in purchasing I am Benjamin Franklin, it is now available, along with the other new release from this series, I am Anne Frank on Amazon: here is my affiliate link to I am Benjamin Franklin and here is my affiliate link to I am Anne Frank.
Here is a link to my review of I am Anne Frank, please head over to that post to learn about this great STEAM book too!