Reviews for John, Paul, George & Ben

Booklist Reviews 2006 February #2
K-Gr. 3. The title offers a clue that Smith is winking at adults, but as good a joke as it is, most children just won't get it. In the stories within, bold-schoolboy John (Hancock) writes his name so large on the blackboard that his exasperated teacher remarks, "We don't need to read it from space." Similarly, loudmouthed Paul (Revere) embarrasses a lady who comes into his shop to buy extralarge underwear; honest George (Washington) admits to chopping down an entire orchard; clever Ben (Franklin) annoys the neighbors with his platitudes; and independent Tom (Jefferson)^B presents a list of grievances to his teacher. The time comes, though, when their traits are valuable to the revolutionary cause. To reach full comic potential, Smith stretches the truth beyond the breaking point, then attempts to undo some of the misconceptions he has created in a true-false quiz, "Taking Liberties," on the closing pages. Deftly drawn, witty, and instantly appealing, the illustrations creatively blend period elements such as wood-grain and crackle-glaze texturing, woodcut lines, and formal compositions typical of the era, with gaping mouths and stylized, spiraling eyes typical of modern cartoons. The artwork and design are excellent and adults will chortle, but this book seems likely to confuse children unfamiliar with the period. Kids will need to know actual, factual American history to appreciate what's going on. ((Reviewed February 15, 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2006 Fall
With humor both broad and sly, Smith introduces the titular fab four (Hancock, Revere, Washington, and Franklin) as well as a fifth lad from the colonies, Tom (Jefferson), by defining each through a single trait and reinforcing that attribute with both historical references and funny fictional events. Back matter (titled "Taking Liberties") informs readers what's true and false in the book. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2006 #3
In a history book that will have the stars on Old Glory spinning as it waves, Smith introduces the titular fab four as well as a fifth lad from the colonies (young Thomas Jefferson, who was "always doing his own thing") by defining each through a single character trait and then reinforcing that attribute with both historical references and fictional events. John (as in Hancock) is bold; Paul (Revere), noisy; George (Washington), honest; Ben (Franklin), clever; and Tom, independent. John, the bold boy, writes his "John Hancock" on the chalkboard in huge letters. The schoolmarm exclaims: "John, we don't need to read it from space!" Back matter (titled "Taking Liberties") informs readers that blackboards hadn't been invented then; the prescient event depicted is funny but fabricated. That's the challenge: children must read critically and not accept everything on the page as the undisputed historical record. Humor, both broad (noisy Paul shouts to a mortified customer: "Extra-large underwear? Sure we have some!") and sly (the parodies in Smith's portraits of the boys and a visual reference to the Beatles' cover of Abbey Road) reminds readers that books hold many discoveries, and quite a bit of ye olde fun. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2006 March #2
Despite the Beatles-reminiscent title, this offering concerns itself with not four, but five of the Founding Dads: John (Hancock), Paul (Revere), George (Washington), Ben (Franklin) and Tom (Jefferson). Each is imagined in his youth, identified by one characteristic that becomes key to his involvement in the American Revolution. John is bold, writing his name large on the blackboard; Paul is noisy, bellowing out customers' orders in his family's shop; George is honest, confessing to the chopping down of not only the cherry tree, but the whole orchard; Ben is clever, sharing his aphorisms with all who will listen; and Tom is independent, making a model of Monticello instead of a birdhouse out of "ye olde balsa wood." Smith's faux-antiqued illustrations deliver bucket-loads of zany energy, but his text lacks his sometime partner Jon Scieszka's focus. While there is a hallowed place for irreverence in children's literature, one might wish for a work that more evenly balances humor with substance. Still, this may serve as an entry point for kids who think that history is dry as dust, and "Ye Olde True or False Section" really is pretty funny. (Picture book. 5-9)First printing of 250,000; $250,000 ad/promo Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2012 September
Gr 2-5-Smith spins a few outlandish backstories for some of America's founding fathers. Why was Paul Revere so good at yelling? What did Ben Franklin's friends think of his pithy sayings? Pen-and-ink drawings combine with collage to create appropriately zany illustrations. DVD and audio version available from Weston Woods. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Reviews 2006 March

Gr 2-5 -Describing each man in turn as either bold, noisy, honest, clever, or independent, and taking many liberties with the truth, Smith relates how the Founding Fathers of the title-and Jefferson, too-played a part in securing America's freedom. Hancock's penchant for sprawling his name across the chalkboard as a child led to his boldly writing the biggest signature on the Declaration of Independence. Revere's loud voice selling underwear in his shop came in handy when he had to scream "The Redcoats are coming!" Washington's honest admission to chopping down trees led to his serving as president in New York City where there were few forests. Well, you get the idea. The pen-and-ink cartoon illustrations, richly textured with various techniques, add to the fun. Page turns reveal droll surprises such as young bewigged George, axe in hand and already missing some teeth, surveying his felled orchard, or Franklin's rejoinder when the townspeople express their vexation with his clever sayings. Early American typefaces, parchment grounds, and vestiges of 18th-century life, like chamber pots and hoop toys, evoke a sense of the time. A true-and-false section in the back separates fact from fiction. While children will love the off-the-wall humor, there is plenty for adult readers to enjoy, too-the clever fly leaf, puns ("…that bell-ringing took a toll on young Paul"), and more. Exercise your freedom to scoop up this one.-Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT

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