Ben Franklin’s Swim Paddles
Ben Franklin’s zest for life and self-assurance shine through in Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of his First Invention by Barb Rosenstock. Not restricting himself to the way things were always done, Franklin learned to swim (rare in colonial America) and then started pondering ways to swim faster and easier. While only a letter written fifty years after the fact describes eleven-year-old Franklin’s swimming paddles, there is ample information about the rest of Franklin’s life and inventions for Rosenstock to write a literary biography filled with historical detail. S.D. Schindler’s illustration capture both colonial life as we know it and imagined iterations of the swim paddles.
Curiosity, perseverance and self-confidence, qualities important for any inventor are evident throughout. Franklin did not fail, but rather he “was not satisfied” with his swim paddles.
“Most kids might have felt sad, ashamed or stupid. Instead, this smart, stubborn, sensible son of a soap-maker simply thought he’d made a mistake — and wouldn’t stop seeking, studying, and struggling until he SUCCEEDED.”
Slip, slosh, squirt, spurt, spout
This book’s strength is that Rosenstock has great fun delivering the message that Ben Franklin enjoyed himself and learned while making mistakes. Words beginning with the letter S predominate the text. Typography emphasizes Rosenstock’s wordplay with bold S-verbs. Cumulative tale techniques highlight the trial and error method central to invention and scientific discovery.
As a delightful nonfiction read-aloud, Ben Franklin’s Big Splash stands out among historical biographies.
Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge