Title: Ben and MeBen and Me
Author: Robert Lawson
Pages: 114
Recommended Ages: 10 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★★

Remember Rabbit Hill and The Great Wheel? Same author!

The Story.

It’s time for Amos to leave home. After all, a family of twenty-eight mice is hard to keep fed – especially when twenty six of them are mouselings. As the oldest, Amos feels that it is his duty to strike out and find a new home. So he walks and walks and walks and finally enters a house. He doesn’t know it at the time, but it is the home of Benjamin Franklin.

All Amos wants is a little bit of cheese and a warm place to sleep. He finds both at the hands of Ben – but in exchange he promises to supply Ben’s curious mind with ideas for inventions and insights into human nature. Will Amos and Ben be able to hang in through their differences?

Discussion.

A few years back, I read Robert Lawson’s book Mr. Revere and I. It was narrated by Paul Revere’s horse, Schezerande, who made a compelling case that hers was the true heroism, bravery, and accomplishment. After all, the only thing Revere did was ride. She was the one who did the running! In a similar fashion, Ben and Me explains that it was not Ben Franklin who was responsible for the invention of the Franklin stove or his many other inventions – it was Amos who developed these.

Not only is the style over-the-top-adorable, but the book actually contains biographical details about Ben Franklin – his experimentation with electricity, his love for swimming, and his time in the French court. The fact that the story is accompanied by Lawson’s illustrations makes it one of the best things that’s ever happened.

In something of a deviation from the main plot, Amos takes it upon himself to aid a French mouse, Sophia, whose husband has been deported to America and children taken capture by the mice at Versailles. Amos organizes an army of mice recruited of the downtrodden French mice and some of the rats from, John Paul Jones’ ship! They fight a camped battle in the middle of a big party at the palace and are plainly visible to the guests.

This section felt a bit forced, but its obvious goal was to provide a foreshadowing (or, if you will, a mousely version) of the French Revolution.

When Ben is trying to decide to which nation he wishes to act as representative, Amos urges Ben to choose France on account of “French pastry, French wines, and beautiful ladies.” Ben replies “Undoubtedly France!” [pg. 72] Ben does go to France, but nothing romantic happens.

Conclusion. Superb. Read alongside Mr. Revere and I to get a real taste for two of America’s heroes.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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