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A Dangerous Engine
Benjamin Franklin, from Scientist to Diplomat

by Joan Dash
Illustrated by Dušan Petričić

      Like a lot of people whose interest in history, especially the history of the American Revolution, was killed by endless lists of meaningless dates and places - the idea of reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin didn't really appeal to me. Then I opened A Dangerous Engine. This book was fascinating. I had heard some story or other about Franklin and a kite but I really wasn't aware of either early theories on electricity or Franklin's part in shaping those theories. Dash's presentation of both totally captivated me. She changed Franklin from a cultural icon into a real person with strengths and weaknesses - and gave me a whole different perspective on science. Too often children see science as a done deal - a set of facts to learn - but Franklin saw it as an adventure, a kind of exploration. And his attitude comes across so clearly in the pages of this book that it's infectious.

I was equally fascinated by the diplomatic side of Franklin's life and the challenges he met - not only in the chore set before him on his mission to France, but also in the reaction to his efforts. I saw the part France played in the American Revolution with new eyes and I will definitely never view Benjamin Franklin quite the same way. This book doesn't deify Franklin and readers will be more than critical of Franklin's treatment of his own family. Despite the complexity of the subject, I found the writing fast paced and exciting - and I heartily recommend it.

The Book

Francis Foster Books/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux
December 2005
Nonfiction Age Level: 9 - 12
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The Reviewer

Jan Fields
Reviewed 2006
NOTE: Reviewer Jan Fields is the editor of Kid Magazine Writers emagazine and has written dozens of stories and articles for the children's magazine market.
© 2006