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ereksonj

ereksonj

Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin - Robert Byrd This book has a very good cover, useful for judging. It reminds me of the 1960s Alton Kelley posters for groups like the Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane.

Surprising for the book's size, Byrd presents a lot of information on Franklin. The illustrations are mostly representational, and done in a style that harks to old printed engravings from Franklin's time. Each double-page spread is more like a chapter than a picture book spread, with text either dominating or sharing the page equally with its images. There is a wide variety in layouts, thanks to Jason Henry, designer. Every image is captioned, making it a good example of differentiated text. Because of the book's structure, I immediately used it for browsing rather than cover to cover reading, which is what books like this are meant to encourage.

This is definitely one for the 'mythmaking' tradition. It brings up all the industry, thrift, and general orneriness we expect from this character. It does a tiny bit to complicate his character with respect to Native and African Americans, but truly avoids any substance on these issues. Byrd apologizes for Franklin's prejudice against Indians by couching it as the norm for his day. There needs to be a balance between this kind of 'judge people in history by the standards of their own time' and the larger cultural patterns that enabled atrocities.