Lane Smith. John, Paul, George, & Ben. Little, Brown Books for Kids, 2006. 32 pp. ISBN 978-0786848935 $17.99
Ever wonder what the Founding Fathers were like as kids? Now you can find out in Lane Smith’s witty and imaginative take on colonial childhood. John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson are treated to a spin in the proverbial “Wayback Machine” as Smith (illustrator of the wildly successful Time Warp Trio series) fantasizes about a day in the life of each man “before fun was invented.” A passel of historical facts and a smattering of tall tales yield some laugh-out-loud results for readers who discover how Paul developed his booming voice (bells, bells, bells) and the reason (cherry trees + axe) George went on to become the only President not ALLOWED to live in Washington D.C.
An appendix entitled “Taking Liberties,” pays homage to Washington’s famous misquotation “I cannot tell a lie,” and separates fact from folklore: Ben Franklin really DID say, “Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.” But John Hancock never wrote his name on the school blackboard in such large letters that his teacher chided him, “We don’t need to read it from space,” (there were no blackboards when Hancock was a boy).
Pen-and-ink illustrations fill the double spreads, which are textured to resemble parchment paper and weathered pulp boards, creating the look and feel of a family album. Museum reproductions of actual photos taken of each man during his presidency serve as endnotes and fitting reminders of their roles in the birth of a nation. Ages 6-up.
This review was originally published on the Hip Librarian’s Book Blog May 25, 2006.