Myra here.


Iphigene has outdone herself with this beautiful widget she created.
Iphigene has outdone herself with this beautiful widget she created.

We are excited to join Kidlit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year. This September-October, we are featuring Black Holes and Parallel Universes: Marvels of Science and Speculative Fiction.” This week, I am glad to share two picturebook biographies of ingenious inventors whose scientific discoveries made what was then considered as science fiction perfectly plausible and doable in this modern day and age.


IMG_6335Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin

Written and Illustrated by: Gene Barretta
Published by: Henry Holt and Company, 2006
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This picturebook focuses primarily on Benjamin Franklin’s inventions which originated over two centuries ago and how useful they remain up to the present time, albeit of course, in a more evolved or modified format.

The story flip-flops between present-day appearance (labeled Now) of Franklin’s inventions usually seen in the left-hand page, and how it appeared like centuries back (labeled Ben, evidently making a play for the word Then), see sample photo below:


From political cartoons in gazettes to bifocals, from lightning rods to the glass armonica, Franklin stoves (or fireplaces) to rocking chairs with built-in fans, it is clear that Benjamin Franklin was a man who was ahead of his time. The endpapers of the book also illustrate his many inventions.


There is no backmatter however, that includes additional resources or condensed biographical information that shows how Benjamin Franklin was like as a child or as an individual. However, for teachers who simply want to highlight Franklin’s many inventions, this is a good place to begin. For teachers who wish to make use of this in the classroom, here is a downloadable PDF link created by Library Congress Pathways Adventures that compiles a variety of lesson modules on the life of Benjamin Franklin across a variety of resources.

Young Thomas EdisonIMG_6336

Written and Illustrated by: Michael Dooling
Published byHoliday House, 2005
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

In this picturebook, the story begins with Thomas Alva Edison’s birth in 1847 in Ohio, the youngest of seven children. The writer established the setting of the period by comparing it to present day circumstances:

Thomas, who was called Young Al by his family, lived in an era very different from ours. There was no electric light, no telephone, no radio or CD player, not even a movie theater.

For children who are used to iPads, gadgets, and the internet (not to mention wifi), this might be quite unthinkable – and provides the perfect backdrop for Thomas’ predispositions and amusements.


At the young age of nine years old, he transformed his family’s cellar into a laboratory and investigated on a variety of chemicals, following the steps he read from his chemistry book. The book also went on to say how his mother was instrumental in his talent development:

His mother always encouraged him to ask questions, and he did. what is this? Why does that happen? How does it happen?

Not surprisingly, Edison’s talent went unrecognized in school by his teachers who thought that he was “addled” because he was constantly daydreaming. His mother, however, always felt that “he was a genius” and that “school was too slow for him” and gave him a real education by feeding his curiosity with books, sustaining his imagination with regular trips to the library, and providing him with space to conduct his inventions.


Reading this picturebook allowed me a wonderful glimpse of Thomas Edison’s young life, his sense of determination, his intrinsic motivation, his keen business sense, and his persistence as he tried and failed and tried again with his many experiments that didn’t always work out the first time. I also particularly liked how the illustrations constantly show Thomas reading a book (see picture above) or doing something with his hands:



There is also a full spread of Edison’s major inventions at the end of the book, as well as their many functions. What I appreciated though is how the Author’s Note also included the extensive research that Dooling conducted in order for him to gather the material needed to write the picturebook: the places he visited to get a feel of Edison’s life and history, the references he used, as well as a list of recommended websites to know more about Edison. And the illustrations are gorgeous too. Definitely a must-read book.



Reading Challenge Update: 247-248 (25)


Nonfiction PictureBook Challenge: 50-51 (25)

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Singapore. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she serves as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads or meeting up with her book club friends, she is smashing that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life.

9 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Ingenious Inventors in Picturebooks: “Now & Ben” and “Young Thomas Edison”

  1. I love the title and concept of Now and Ben! The illustrations in Young Thomas Edison look beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so happy that our curriculum has changed and the teachers are using more picture book biographies. They are such treasures. Now and Ben has been popping up on many blogs. It looks like it is fun and does something that other bios about him doesn’t by offering that comparison from the past and present.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Eeek! I wrote doesn’t when I should have written don’t. I always tell my students to read it before posting and didn’t do it myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Now and Ben looks really good for my primary readers. I will look into it, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fun inventors theme this week! I think I like Now & Ben for the play on words just with the title! But the illustrations for YTE look like real art!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Myra, I read NOW & BEN and just loved it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love the look of the Thomas Edison book. Would be so interesting for kids to see these “period” style illustrations.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the illustrations for the Thomas Edison book. They seem almost real. And of course, I love Now & Ben – so well done.


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