This is another twist on the topic of War in Children’s Books – this is the story of Ben Franklin, and his role in the American Revolution. But it’s told from the perspective of a mouse living in Ben’s hat!
Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos is a (probably) fictionalized novel by Robert Lawson. As a youngster, I had loved this story about Ben Franklin, as told by a mouse named Amos who lived in his hat. I had forgotten about the book for a long time, and then a homeschooling friend (who is studying the American Revolution with us) mentioned how much her daughter had enjoyed the book.
Ben and Me begins when Amos (the mouse) leaves his poor, church mice family and ends up in the home and hat of Benjamin Franklin. Ben keeps him in his fur hat as Amos helps him through diplomatic discussions and plans for the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War. They have a falling out over Ben’s experiments with electricity (which is incredibly amusing!), and Amos does not travel with Ben on his first diplomatic trip overseas. This trip does not succeed, so Ben comes home to ingratiate himself with Amos again. Once they have made up, Amos continues to help him, and they go to France in an attempt to get funding for the American Revolution. Since Amos is there to help him, it all goes well, and the story is simply wonderful.
All three of my girls (preschooler through third grade) loved Ben and Me. When my brother was a boy in that age range or a little older, he really enjoyed the book, too – this book seems to be a great read for any child with imagination and an interest in history. Ben Franklin is a fascinating character on so many levels – many adults have read Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, but this book is a much more approachable one. Some of the “facts” included in Ben and Me have been disproved in the time since Robert Lawson wrote the book (ie: electricity discovered by kite flying with a key), but the book serves as a wonderful introduction to the life and legend of Ben Franklin and his impact on American History. If your kids are very interested in the science aspect, we suggest The Ben Franklin Book of Easy and Incredible Experiments: A Franklin Institute Science Museum Book so they can do some of Ben Franklin’s experiments themselves.
Robert Lawson has written many more books about American Historical figures from the point of view of an animal, and we are excited to read about other characters as we continue our study of American history.