Smith, L. (2006). John, Paul, George and Ben. New York: Hyperion Books for Children. ISBN: 9780786848935
Annotation: John, Paul, George and Ben (and Tom!) were five lads who used their unique personalities to help found a country. In this book, they use those personalities to annoy everyone around them.
Reaction: This book was really fun and delightful. Smith made me laugh out loud, and I had to try to explain to my husband what was so funny. The language and story is a little young, but 10-11 year olds would be better able to get the jokes (and Revere’s underwear joke will have them roaring with laughter) and understand the difference between fact and fiction.
The art also really helps make this book unique and funny. Smith’s cartoony illustrations of these Founding Father’s as tiny versions of their adult selves are adorable and hilarious, especially in the way other characters react to their actions. The background textures with the cracks and chipped paint give this modern book age, letting the reader know that the story is set in Olden Times.
The true/false section at the end would be useful in a 5th grade history unit to help students differentiate between fact and fiction and start a discussion about artistic liberties. This book works as a fun introduction to these five important men in US History and would work really well alongside other picture books from the same time period.
I also enjoyed the Beatles allusions Smith slipped in there: “I get by with a little help from my friends” on the dedication page, the title, “Say, you want a revolution?” at the end.
This book is on the 2011 Students’ List for “Books receiving votes for Top Ten Favorites from students in Summer 2011.”
Media Used: The illustrations were hand drawn with pen-and-ink. The textures were created by a variety of techniques, including oil paint on canvas and sampled surfaces from handmade parchment papers and weathered pulp boards. The collage elements are facsimiles of 18th Century ephemera. All combined on a Mac.
The miniature portraits of the young men were rendered in oil and modeled after their grown-up portraits by Copley, Stuart and Wright. (From copyright page)