John, Paul, George and Ben by Lane Smith
Rating: 5 EXTRA LARGE stars
Here's a book that's been on our shelf for a long time, even longer than my absence from this blog (sorry, was a bit preoccupied with life).
Many of Lane Smith's books are politically-related, including his latest, Abe Lincoln's Dream...has anyone read it? I've not yet. His most famous, for which he oh-so-justly earned a Caldecott, was Grandpa Green (my review here). I'm a fan, because Lane Smith is one funny dude*, whose illustrations match his witty words. I appreciate funny dudes, and I appreciate the quirkiness--both written and illustrated--of this book.
The tale is one that we all know: That some important guys put their important heads together and did some important stuff in order to get our important nation off to a good start. Smith tells the (mostly true) individual stories and then collective, revolutionary tale of John Adams, Paul Revere, George Washington, Ben Franklin, and also Thomas Jefferson (who was always off doing his own thing, so he doesn't get his name in the title). He spends a few pages on each one, illustrating with words and pictures each particular character.
They are all funny, but Paul is my favorite. Smith explains: "Before fun was invited, people joined bell-ringing clubs." Because of this, Paul was hard of hearing and so, in order to hear himself, yelled an awful lot. Check out the image of Paul, whose loudness wasn't appreciated at his shop:
"It took many years and a midnight ride for people to finally appreciate his special talent," writes Smith, as the illustration has Paul riding his bay steed through the cobblestone streets to warn of the Redcoats.
Ben Franklin is also pretty funny, but mostly because Lorelei had a habit of repeating two of the sayings that Smith includes in the small collection of Ben Franklin-isms. "Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead" and "Fish and visitors stink after three days." Can you see a preschool-goin', blonde-haired, blue-eyed three year old walking around saying these two things? Yup, that's our Lorelei.
Anyway, I am so glad that we have had this book for so long. It is funny and engaging and--lo and behold--completely educational. In the back Smith includes real images of the five important dudes, and Lorelei and Ben have been able to pick them out in photographs and paintings for years. They know an impressive handful of basic facts (for example, George Washington was the first president, and he lived in New York, not the White House in Washington, DC) and have yet to start elementary school.
I think it's so important to teach kids about our country, starting with the basics, like this book so funnily does. This book is one example of many that can get your kids started on the right track to be an informed, appreciative patriot.
( * Lorelei also walked around saying "dude" instead of "guy" or "man" for years...oops. I learned from that chuckle-worthy mistake, and her brothers started off with less surfer-like language.