Grateful American® Foundation

How did Ben Franklin steal the lightning? Children’s book author and illustrator Roz Schanzer explains

July 1, 2016

350 Dust jacket Ben 033“Ben Franklin was the most famous American in the entire world during colonial times,” explains children’s book author and illustrator Roz Schanzer in this enchanting book about one of the nation’s most inventive Founding Fathers.

“No wonder!” she adds in this book for kids ages 6-12. “After all, the man could do just about anything. Why, he was an author and an athlete and a patriot and a scientist and an inventor to boot. He even found a way to steal the lightning right out of the sky. Is such a thing possible? It is!”

Be sure to take a look at this insightful book where you’ll find Ben busy at work on every spread. Then find out how he used his discovery about lightning to make people’s lives safer.

In an inventive way, Rosalyn Schanzer brings us a brilliant and ever-curious American original.

404 Ben can do everything

What people are saying about “How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning:”

Publisher’s Weekly: “As with her How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark, Schanzer’s lively writing and drawing style again makes history come alive. Here she gives appropriate spark to a picture-book overview of Benjamin Franklin’s various inventions and scientific experiments, zeroing in on his discovery of lightning’s electric power. The statement “It’s true!” begins the exhilarating ride. From there the author summarizes, in a succinct and zippy style, many of Franklin’s achievements as inventor, statesman, author, entrepreneur, activist, community leader and musician-a Renaissance man of boundless energy (“Didn’t the man ever stop to rest?” she wonders). The artwork, a combination of vibrantly colored dyes and ink line, depicts an ebullient Franklin smiling, with his hair flying, as he flits from one role to the next. But the author devotes a significant portion of the book to Franklin’s curiosity about electricity (which he believed to be found in lightning) and its potential to cause devastating fires, including the story behind Franklin’s famous experiment of flying a kite with a key on its string during a thunderstorm. The compositions, which include period detail and accessible illustrated renditions of Franklin’s documented projects and inventions, match the chipper tone of the text. An extensive author’s note provides further information on Franklin’s life and works, and spiffy endpapers reproduce diagrams and notes from Franklin’s papers in Philadelphia’s American Philosophical Society. This fitting tribute to a memorable leader emphasizes the playfulness that accompanies a curious mind and the boundless energy required for great accomplishments.”

School Library Journal: “Even in childhood, Franklin was inventing better ways to do things. “He lay on his back, held on to a kite string, and let his kite pull him lickety-split across a big pond.” This spirited account of the most prodigious inventor echoes the tall-tale humor Schanzer employed in Davy Crockett Saves the World (HarperCollins, 2001). Her subject comes across as larger than life, even though the lively, color cartoon sketches often depict him in miniature. The book begins with Franklin’s accomplishments but quickly moves on to his many inventions and his growing interest in electricity, culminating in his capture of lightning in the legendary kite experiment. The author does a nice job of explaining the historical context and the ultimate value of the lightning rod in saving lives. The deftly drawn comic scenes and the folksy tone lend folklore flavor, but this brisk account is not fictionalized. The concluding author’s note adds information on Franklin’s work as inventor, and the endpapers superimpose a small, cheerful depiction of him on a pleasant layout of his own sketches. Well conceived and crafted, this fresh view is particularly welcome as few of the fine picture-book accounts of the popular patriot remain in print. Enjoyable reading fare, this volume will pair neatly with Lisa Jo Rudy’s The Ben Franklin Book of Easy and Incredible Experiments (Wiley, 1995). — Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston

31e2Ei-azlL._UX250_About the Author: Author/Illustrator Rosalyn Schanzer‘s book “Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem” (National Geographic) is the winner of the Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators for Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2011 and has also received a 2012 Robert F. Sibert Honor Award as one of the year’s five most distinguished informational books for children.

Schanzer has written and illustrated 16 award-winning books for young people. A world traveler, nationally ranked Masters swimmer, avid photographer, and chocolate connoisseur, she lives in Fairfax Station, VA, with her husband in a house surrounded by birds. You can visit her website at

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