Cover image for Becoming Ben Franklin : how a candle-maker's son helped light the flame of liberty
Becoming Ben Franklin : how a candle-maker's son helped light the flame of liberty
First edition.
Physical Description:
86 pages : illustrations--some color, map, portraits ; 24 x 28 cm
The runaway apprentice -- Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia, printer -- Snatching lightning from the sky -- Borrowing an idea from the Iroquois -- Dr. Fatsides in the mother country -- Becoming a rebel -- Declaring independence -- An American in Paris -- A useful life -- Timeline.
Reading Level:
1170 L Lexile
An introduction to the life of young Benjamin Franklin describes how, as a rebellious teen in 1732, he ran away from his family and a Boston apprenticeship to Philadelphia, and how throughout subsequent decades he rose to become a distinguished statesman, renowned author and world-famous scientist.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 921 FRANKLIN 1 1
Book J 921 FRANKLIN 1 1
Book J 921 FRANKLIN 1 1
Book J 921 FRANKLIN 1 1

On Order



In 1723 Ben Franklin arrived in Philadelphia as a poor and friendless seventeen-year-old who had run away from his family and an apprenticeship in Boston. Sixty-two years later he stepped ashore in nearly the same spot but was greeted by cannons, bells, and a cheering crowd, now a distinguished statesman, renowned author, and world-famous scientist. Freedman's riveting story of how a rebellious apprentice became an American icon comes in an elegantly designed book filled with art and includes a timeline, source notes, bibliography, and index

Author Notes

Russell Freedman was born in San Francisco, California on October 11, 1929. He received a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley in 1951. After college, he served in the U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps during the Korean War. After his military service, he became a reporter and editor with the Associated Press. In 1956, he took a position at the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson in New York, where he did publicity writing for television. In 1965, he became a full-time writer.

His first book, Teenagers Who Made History, was published in 1961. He went on to publish more than 60 nonfiction titles for young readers including Immigrant Kids, Cowboys of the Old West, Indian Chiefs, Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life, Confucius: The Golden Rule, Because They Marched: The People's Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America, Vietnam: A History of the War, and The Sinking of the Vasa. He received the Newbery Medal for Lincoln: A Photobiography and three Newbery Honors for Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery, The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane, and The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights. He also received the Regina Medal, the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Award, the Orbis Pictus Award, the Sibert Medal, a Sibert Honor, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and the National Humanities Medal. He died on March 16, 2018 at the age of 88.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Horn Book Review

British resident Thomas Penn described Ben Franklin as "a dangerous man" and stated, "I should be very glad [if] he inhabited any other country." Americans, however, proudly claim Franklin as their native son. Although his inventions, scientific inquiry, writing skills, and productiveness all receive notice in this book, the growth of his belief in an independent and united Colonial government, and his diplomatic efforts leading to that ideal, are emphasized most. Freedman thoroughly discusses Franklin's ambassadorial accomplishments and failures as well as his accompanying hardships, which ranged from enduring a public dressing-down by Britain's Privy Council in 1775 to coping with the frigid Canadian winter of 1776. With impeccable sourcing and deep research, Freedman enhances his narrative by quoting liberally from Franklin's autobiography and respected scholars such as Carl Van Doren and Walter Isaacson, and Freedman's modern and accessible language provides context for and serves as a bridge to adult (often arcane) exposition. Archival photographs appear on every page, to varying effect; the page design, which employs a faded colonial gray-green, is rather drab. Appended with a timeline of Franklin's many accomplishments; documentation; a note about sources; picture credits; and an index. betty carter (c) Copyright 2013. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* f your image of Benjamin Franklin is a portly, balding old fellow carried through the streets of Philadelphia in a sedan chair, meet 17-year-old Ben. A runaway apprentice new to the city, he was strong, energetic, and ambitious, with intelligence and charm to spare. Freedman traces Franklin's life and work, showing how a mischievous boy became a rebellious apprentice, then a successful colonial printer, and finally an influential figure in the world and a pivotal figure in his nation's founding. Along the way, Franklin informs and amuses his countrymen with Poor Richard's Almanack, heats them with his stove design, enlightens them through his experiments on electricity, and protects them by inventing the lightning rod. Writing about a man whose long life included such varied interests and accomplishments must involve hard choices of what to leave out, but Freedman clearly enjoys the challenge. In chapters with titles such as Dr. Fatsides in the Mother Country, he writes perceptively about every stage of Franklin's life, weaving in lively anecdotes as well as quotes from his Autobiography and other writings. The well-chosen color illustrations include period paintings, prints, and documents. Handsomely designed, solidly researched, and beautifully written, this is the go-to biography of Franklin for young people. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: After a long, storied career, Freedman continues to carry the banner as one of the premier nonfiction writers for youth. The combination of names his and his subject's guarantees requests.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2010 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8-There are numerous excellent children's books about Benjamin Franklin, including Robert Byrd's Electric Ben (Dial, 2012), Rosalyn Schanzer's How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning (HarperCollins, 2002), and Candace Fleming's Ben Franklin's Almanac (S & S, 2003). Freedman, however, is a master at taking primary sources and turning them into engaging narratives that draw readers into the subject. While the three earlier books are highly visual presentations, this treatment is more about the text. Numerous paintings and engravings are included, but they are not the main event. Tracing Franklin's life chronologically, the author chose episodes that reflect how the young man, disgruntled with being his brother's apprentice, made a life for himself, and how he became the figure who is revered today. By describing the obstacles Franklin overcame in establishing his print shop in Philadelphia, Freedman delineates a clear path between his subject's early ambition and his ease with people to his success in business and then to his later roles as a diplomat, revolutionary, and public servant. Biographers make decisions about what to leave out as much as what to put in, but Freedman is consistent in connecting his discussion to primary sources. The result is an account that examines the whole of Franklin's remarkable life but does not overwhelm readers.-Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

An engaging biography of the man who "snatched lightning from the sky and the scepter from tyrants." Benjamin Franklin ran away from his apprenticeship in Boston and arrived in Philadelphia a tired, dirty and hungry 17-year-old who impressed 15-year-old Deborah Read, his future wife, as a young man with a "most awkward ridiculous appearance." With characteristic grace, Freedman sketches his subject's career: Franklin settled into life in Philadelphia and became a printer, first publishing Poor Richard's Almanack in 1733. Franklin led the Junto, which fostered such civic improvements as America's first lending library, lighting Philadelphia's streets, and founding the firefighting company, the first hospital and Philadelphia's first college. By age 44, Franklin was prosperous enough to retire from business, but he continued to be busy, inventing bifocals, the lightning rod and the Franklin stove. He was active in the creation of a new nation, signing all of the major documents that created the United States. Freedman is a master at shaping stories that bring history to life, with clear and lively prose rooted in solid research. The stylish volume includes many reproductions of portraits, engravings, and newspaper and almanac pages to enliven the fascinating portrait of Franklin and his times. A superb addition to Freedman's previous volumes on the Revolutionary period. (timeline, source notes, picture credits, bibliography, index) (Biography. 10 up)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.