Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire ~ Doubleday, 1950
I don't remember how it came up, but the other night my son asked me what a genius was. I immediately chimed in Albert Einstein, and my husband scolded me for selecting such an obvious choice. His reply, "What about Leonardo Da Vinci?"... and I said, well, he was more famous for being an inventor and artist rather than a "circle c" genius. I mean Einstein was famous for BEING A GENIUS... and I'm sure more than a handful of readers will have to stretch their minds to remember his job description or what he was famous for... (I'll wait here if you want to Goggle..... physicist... E = mc2).... other than just being a genius. But after much thought on the subject, I have to say if I had to pick one favorite genius, Ben Franklin would be it. Not only was he a founding father and a constructor of many quotable quotes and the inventor of the lightning rod ala kite and key... but he also invented the public library.... which hands down might very well be one of the greatest inventions of all time.
That said, who better to tell his story to kids than the d'Aulaires... who also took on other American-themed big-wigs like Abraham Lincoln, Buffalo Bill and Columbus in picture book form. Really, I try not to use the word stunning lightly... but everything the d'Aulaires touched wreaks of it. Not only are the lithographs on stone mouthwatering, but the story is pretty darn cosy as well. Just check out the end of the book when genius passes on to another place...
Old Benjamin Franklin looked about him and beheld his wonderful country, wide and free, and he pointed to the emblem of the sun in Independence Hall. He had never quite know what it meant. "Now I know," he said, "that it is a rising sun." He sat in his garden in the shade of a mulberry tree and watched his grandchildren play around him. He retired to the quiet of his library, where now he could read his beloved books in peace. And when his hour came, Benjamin Franklin said: "I am ready to repose myself securely in the lap of God and Nature, as a child in the arms of an affectionate parent."
Stunning (and genius) indeed.
D'Aulaire's Book of Animals
D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths
The Terrible Troll-Bird
Don't Count Your Chicks