Tag Archives: Benjamin Franklin


5 Nov

Some words are fun. Some words have fun origins, like sabotage, which finds its roots in the French verb saboter, which originally meant to make loud clattering noises with wooden shoes. These were the shoes of poor country folks, so the word sabotage was coined by a French anarchist to describe work done in a deliberately slow and clumsy way to cause damage.

The first explanation I learned for the word came from one of my HS history teachers. he told us that the word came from  sabot, the word for those French wooden shoes. During the industrial revolution, farm workers used to throw their sabot into the machines that were taking their jobs. This is my favorite explanation that causes me to conger up Romantic pastoral visions of French peasants gracefully throwing their sabot from gracefully arcing arms.

Mesmerize is another word with an interesting origin. It comes from Franz Anton Mesmer, an 18th century Viennese physician who founded a therapeutic movement called mesmerism.

This brings me to Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno.


Publisher’s Summary: The day Ben Franklin first set foot in Paris, France, he found the city all abuzz. Everyone was talking about something new—remarkable, thrilling, and strange. Something called . . . Science!

But soon the straightforward American inventor Benjamin Franklin is upstaged by a compelling and enigmatic figure: Dr. Mesmer. In elaborately staged shows, Mesmer, wearing a fancy coat of purple silk and carrying an iron wand, convinces the people of Paris that he controls a magic force that can make water taste like a hundred different things, cure illness, and control thoughts! But Ben Franklin is not convinced. Will his practical approach of observing, hypothesizing, and testing get to the bottom of the mysterious Mesmer’s tricks? A rip-roaring, lavishly illustrated peek into a fascinating moment in history shows the development and practice of the scientific method—and reveals the amazing power of the human mind.

This was both a fun and interesting read. Bruno’s illustrations are marvelous


and the text makes the use of the scientific method exciting. A good read anytime, this would be a great introduction to a science fair unit.

Today’s Pre-Invention Convention Read Aloud

23 Apr


Reading about Chester Greenwood yesterday got the kids thinking about things they use that can be improved. Today, our read aloud looks at Ben Franklin inventions that are still around because the basic design was good. His ideas have just been improved.

Now & Ben : The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin, written and illustrated by Gene Barretta, features two page spreads that show a modern invention on the left and the Ben Franklin original on the right.


The text explanations are simple but point out how Ben Franklin is still relevant today.The end pages playfully depict various inventions of Franklin and the year that they were invented.

This book is an excellent tool to add to an inventor’s toolbox.

Ben & Vicky

8 Oct

What do Queen Victoria and Benjamin Franklin have in Common? Besides the new pictures books that feature each of them, they both loved swimming!

 Unknown  Unknown-2

Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine,  written by Gloria Whelan and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, is written in verse and tells the true story of Queen Victoria’s real dilemma. She wanted to bathe in the sea, but decorum dictated that she mustn’t.  Prince Albert, ever the innovator, created a bathing machine, a small house that permitted the Queen to bathe in privacy. The real thing has been restored and can still be seen.


While listening to the 7th Jacky Faber book, Rapture of the Deep, I came across mention of the paddles Ben Franklin invented to help. What a delight to discover Barb Rosenstock’s  Ben Franklin;s Big Splash which talks about Ben’s desire to become a better swimmer. To go faster he first created hand paddles, which were very effective. His feet paddles were less helpful. The playful illustrations, by S. D. Schindler, show a naked Ben swimming, with vital parts strategically covered by water.

Both books take readers through the design process and would be a fun introduction to ann engineering and design unit.


27 Jun

One of the great things about teaching is that you can change jobs and reinvent yourself.  I began my career as a French teacher. Along the way I’ve taught both French and Spanish immersion, 3rd & 4th grade, 6th & 7th grade Humanities, ESL and I’ve been the school librarian. The Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne , is reputed to have said that to speak another Language is to Possess another soul. I know, having learned French, Danish and Spanish, that learning each added another dimension. I’ve been Adrienne and Adriana. I become Miss Gillespie as I get ready for school. 

My mom left home at 15, escaping Timmins to avoid the life she saw unfolding for her if she stayed.

Ben Franklin also left home in his teens, fleeing Boston for Philadelphia, to escape the life he saw unfolding in his father’s soap and candle making shop. In Becoming Ben Franklin: How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty, Russell Freedman lets us into the many ways Ben Franklin reinvented himself.


This is a very readable biography, in the well-researched style we have come to expect from Freedman. The text is supported by a wealth of reproductions of pictures from the period and by  Franklin’s own writings. A time line, bibliography and end notes, picture credits and index are found at the end of this excellent book.

%d bloggers like this: