________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 18 . . . .May 12, 2006


Franklin’s Bear. (Red Go Bananas).

Chris d’Lacey. Illustrated by Thomas Taylor.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2006.
48 pp., pbk. & cl., $7.16 (pbk.), $18.36 (RLB).
ISBN 0-7787-2696-7 (pbk.), ISBN 0-7787-2674-6 (RLB).

Subject Headings:
Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790-Juvenile fiction.
Teddy bears-Fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Ellie Contursi.

*** /4



It is nightfall at the house of Benjamin Franklin, the famous inventor, philosopher and scientist. Outside, a terrible storm is forming. Black clouds roll across the sky. A rumble of thunder rattles the windows. Dead leaves rustle and dance on the porch.

It is a time when any sensible inventor would be closing the curtains and snuggling up to his faithful bear. Here is Benjamin Franklin's bear. All afternoon, he has been busy in his corner making a kite from cedar wood and silk. Making things is the bear's favourite hobby - apart from eating jam, of course.

But as the sky begins to growl, he puts down his kite and places two cushions over his ears. He does not like the boom of thunder. It makes his stuffing wobble.

Suddenly, the master enters the room. "Come, Bear!" he cries. "There is a great storm blowing. We must ride and study it."


So begins the story of how this famous inventor discovers the power of electricity. However, it is the voice of Benjamin Franklin's teddy bear telling it. In the first three chapters, the reader learns of Franklin's experiments with 'electric fire' and how he uses a lightning rod to foretell a storm's approach. Franklin's excitement about electricity is always underlined by the message of its power and danger. Franklin tells bear that one day in the future each household will have electric lights and many machines powered by electricity. Bear tries to think up some of his own machine-like inventions.

     The following chapter outlines how Franklin's lightning rod saves the town church from being hit by lightning and catching fire. Bear is brave enough to climb the church's steeple to fasten the rod to it. Who is the hero here? Bear is proud of his achievement and of Franklin's invention – the lightning rod. All he requires is a bit of jam for his troubles, but, alas, no jam to be found. Luckily, honey is his reward for bravery! Bear is very pleased.

     Franklin's Bear is part of the “Go Bananas” series of first chapter books. Similar to Fire Cat, by Pippa Goodhart, it combines fiction with non-fiction in a delightful way. Benjamin Franklin's teddy bear is our protagonist. As we learn factual details of Franklin's inventions, we are entertained by this bear's penchant for jam and desire to stay away from lightning storms (the exact opposite of his master). The colour illustrations partnered with the text make this a good candidate for those readers just beyond easy reader chapter books. The final pages offer safety information about electricity, activities for readers to try, and useful information about Franklin's lesser-known inventions. Just a minor problem. I found a typo on page 7 of the book; the word 'make' should be 'makes'. Recommended for public and elementary school libraries.


Ellie Contursi is a librarian in London, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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