<b>Curiosity was Franklin's key</b> The 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's birth has inspired several new books for young readers, and Joan Dash's <b>A Dangerous Engine: Benjamin Franklin, From Scientist to Diplomat</b> is one of the best. This insightful, highly engaging biography depicts Franklin as an insatiably curious, remarkably creative individual who was first and foremost a scientist but nonetheless also achieved extraordinary success in public service and diplomacy. The book opens with a 37-year-old Franklin witnessing a scientific demonstration that propels his lifelong fascination and experimentation with electricity. Dash notes that [s]ince childhood he had been possessed of a powerful curiosity, a need to know how things worked and why. Dash chronicles Franklin's success as a printer and publisher and his efforts to create a police corps, fire company, hospital, the first public library system in America and an academy which later became the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to his profound sense of civic duty, Franklin was equally selfless in the many inventions he created, including bifocals, the furnace stove, the lightning rod and the first odometer. Although he took care to make it known that these inventions were his brainchild, Franklin never patented them, believing they existed as an opportunity to serve others. Admired by the French court and beloved by French citizens, Franklin became America's first foreign diplomat, helping to secure vital financial and military support. Franklin's diplomatic successes led Britain's ambassador to France to declare him a dangerous engine. Dash also offers fascinating insight into Franklin's relationships with his children, particularly his complete estrangement from his son William, who sided with the Loyalists. Handsome pen-and-ink drawings highlight moments in this revolutionary thinker's life. Although written specifically for young people, this lively, entertaining biography is a book readers of all ages will enjoy. <i>Ed Sullivan is a school librarian in Knoxville.</i>

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