John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith is a fabulously fun historical fiction picture book that Kindergarten through 5th graders will enjoy. Adults will also find plenty of entertainment in the subtleties of this well written and original book.
John, Paul, George & Ben gets 5 out of 5 stars in my book. The illustrations, by Smith (who has illustrated many fun books like The Stinky Cheese Man, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, and much more) are phenomenal and truly fit the theme of not only the writing style but the historical time period. The text is also hilarious. The basic story line has the true historical aspects that we all know, like George Washington being honest and John Hancock being bold, about each of the founding fathers. However, they are told in a very entertaining and fun way. Elementary students of all ages will enjoy this book, and middle school students would be entertained if it was read aloud to them by their history teacher. Lane Smith clearly takes many liberties with his facts; though, there are still plenty of truthful aspects to not have you completely dismiss its validity. All in all, this book is worth all 5 stars and a worthy purchase for your own library. The storyline and text are fun, the illustrations are beautiful, and there is a lot of educational value.
Personally, I think it is fun to read this book to myself for enjoyment as well as to my kids right around the 4th of July for obvious reasons. However, I also loved using this book when I was a teacher and a librarian in lessons. You have a number of options or possibilities when it comes to lesson ideas. There could be many social studies lessons as well as writing lessons, but it doesn't end there. This book is valuable. One obvious lesson idea is to take historical aspects and people and write about the historical person as he/she was young.
"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 Americas freedom. Hancocks penchant for sprawling his name across the chalkboard as a child led to his boldly writing the biggest signature on the Declaration of Independence. Reveres loud voice selling underwear in his shop came in handy when he had to scream The Redcoats are coming! Washingtons 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 Franklins 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."
This 5 star fun picture book is a great read and worth the purchase price; you will have many, many happy years to read and enjoy this one.
Happy Fourth of July, and happy fun founding fathers picture book reading!