Friday, June 01, 2012

Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin

Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci,

Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin

by Gene Barretta

Musician, Writer, Inventor, Statesman, Cartoonist, Postmaster, Philosopher, Diplomat... Dr.Benjamin Franklin wore many hats and wore them well.

Now & Ben shows us many of Ben Franklin's creations that are still in use today, more than two centuries later.

With colorful and humorous illustrations, each double page spread shows Now... and Ben... featuring one (or more) of Dr.Franklin's creations as it is used now, and as it was originally put forth by Ben. For instance:

Now... bifocals are very common. Bifocals combine two sets of lenses into one pair of glasses. The bottom lens helps see the near, and the top lens helps see far.

Ben...originally designed bifocals for himself after he grew tired of switching between two glasses.

Of course, there is the iconic page mentioning Benjamin Franklin's famous experiment when he attached a metal wire to the top of a kite to gather electricity from storm cloud.

From the grabber for grabbing out-of-reach things and the flippers for swimming; the benefits of citrus diet to prevent scurvy; measuring and charting the Gulf Stream currents; to the glass harmonica and the writing chair, Benjamin Franklin's many creations are very much in use today, even if not in its original form.

I learnt a lot from this book, and so did the 7 year old. I did not know that Benjamin Franklin was the first to print a political cartoon in America or that he invented the first odometer when he was Postmaster General.

Along the same vein, Neo Leo introduces us to the amazing Leonardo da Vinci. At once an artist, engineer, mathematician, scientist, and visionary, da Vinci's detailed diagrams and designs from over five centuries ago paved the way for many of the modern mechanical contraptions we take for granted today.

The illustrations in the book are clever and cheeky, allowing an older reader (viz., me) to hunt and spot as many da Vinci associations as one can find in each page.

Dear Deer, A Book of Homophones was our first encounter with Gene Barretta which led us to Neo Leo and Now & Ben.

It is not easy to make biographies of great men/women accessible to kids - either they short-change the greatness or tend to be a tedious read. These two biographies by Barretta, however, are crisp and detailed enough to give an awe-inspiring picture of these stalwarts; and they certainly made a mark on the 7-year old, urging her to reach within herself and find all that she is capable of - at the moment, at least.

The fact that a single person was a veritable storehouse of such great ideas that made modern civilization what it is today certainly impressed upon us via these book.

[image source:]


Choxbox said...

Love the Leo on the pic - he looks cute! Will look for it Sheels, thanks for the recos.

Arundhati said...

Thanks for these great recos, we immensely enjoyed both books. I loved going over the details in Leo Neo with P, have always been fascinated by da Vinci. This was our third Leonardo book, must do a post. And, while demonstrating mirror writing, I realised I can write with my right hand! (I am left-handed).
The next day, the 5 yo was unusually quiet for quite a while, reappeared proclaiming he would devise an instrument like the armonica but made with plates, and chanted 'Pennsylvania fireplace' - that's when I figured he'd been reading Now & Ben!
Our experience at the Air & Space museum in DC was definitely enhanced because we'd read about Leonardo's attempts

Long comment! Keep the awesome recos coming, Sheela

Playing by the book said...

Thanks for sharing these two books on my inventions round up. They're new to me, so especially good to learn about them.

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