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Children's Nonfiction Historical

A Dangerous Engine

Benjamin Franklin, from Scientist to Diplomat

by (author) Joan Dash

illustrated by Dusan Petricic

Farrar Straus & Giroux
Initial publish date
Dec 2005
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2005
    List Price

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Out of print

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At the time of his famous kite experiment, Benjamin Franklin was unaware that his theories about electricity had already made him a celebrity all over Europe, especially in France, where fashionable circles loved to discuss scientific discovery. Admired by the French court and beloved by French citizens, Franklin effectively became America’s first foreign diplomat, later helping to enlist France’s military and financial support for the American Revolution. A father of the revolution and a
signer of the Constitution, Franklin was a lightning rod in political circles – “a dangerous Engine,” according to a critic. And although he devoted the last twenty-five years of his life to affairs of state, his first love was always science. Handsome pen-and-ink drawings highlight moments in this revolutionary thinker’s life. From the author and illustrator ofThe Longitude Prize, a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book and winner of theBoston Globe–HornBookAward, comes another story of adventure and invention, of one man’s curiosity and the extraordinary rewards of his discoveries, just in time to celebrate the 300th anniversary of his birth (January 17, 1706).

About the authors

Joan Dash's profile page

Duan Petricic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, but loved to pretend that he grew up in Zemun, an old city located just across the river (and now a part of Belgrade). As a boy he did all the forbidden things that children do, but what Duan loved most was to draw. He started drawing at age four and, encouraged by his parents, he never stopped. He found inspiration in everything, and drawing became a way to communicate with the people around him. Two books that were very important to his childhood were an old encyclopedia with lots of pictures and The Boys from Pavel’s Street by Ferenc Molnár. Early on, he was moved by the drawings found within the encyclopedia. As he grew older, he adored many artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer, and Picasso. Duan has been illustrating children’s books for many years. He has received numerous honors and awards for his work, in North America and internationally, including an IBBY Certificate of Honour and an Alberta Book Award for On Tumbledown Hill (Red Deer Press). The Longitude Prize (FSG) was selected as a Robert F. Siebert Honor Book for a Distinguished Informative Book for Children in the US. His beautiful, evocative illustrations for Mattland (2009) by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert garnered Duan the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award from the Canadian Library Association as well as the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. His illustrations for Better Together (2011) by Sheryl and Simon Shapiro were described as “sublime” by Kirkus Reviews. When it came time to reissue Robert Munsch’s Mud Puddle (2012), Duan was Annick’s first choice to reillustrate the classic. The results are a fresh and energetic look that will delight a whole new generation of young Munsch fans. Duan’s latest book, The Man with the Violin (2013), was greeted with rave reviews, including starred reviews in Kirkus and uill & uire. Written by Kathy Stinson, this beautifully evocative picture book tells the true story of world-renowned violinist, Joshua Bell, who conducted an experiment by anonymously playing his priceless violin in the Washington D.C. subway station. Luckily for Duan, his profession is his favorite hobby and he is happy when at work. To young artists he would give this advice: “Think, think, think, think, draw!” Duan lives in Toronto where he is a regular contributor as an editorial cartoonist in the Toronto Star.

Dusan Petricic's profile page


  • Unknown, Natural History Magazine Best Books of the Year
  • Unknown, NYPLC Children's Books 100
  • Unknown, Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Master List

Editorial Reviews

"Readers will come away with a profound understanding of this great man's mind, heart, achievements, and. . . sense of fun." -- Starred,Kirkus Reviews
 "Joan Dash has a flair for history and technology that serves her well in telling the Franklin story."  --The New YorkTimes Book Review "Superb."  --San Francisco Chronicle "Well written."  --VOYA "Dash delves into considerable detail. . . but her smooth storytelling and Petricic's sassy full-page black-and-white illustrations draw readers steadily along."--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books "Franklin's long, productive, and interesting life is vividly recounted in a lively manner."  --School Library Journal "Through smart, selective use of Franklin's correspondence, Dash keeps readers close to the thoughts and personalities of the book's historical figures. Petricic's black-and-white illustrations are a fine complement to the text."  --The Horn Book "Petricic's droll artwork interprets events with a wit that America's first political cartoonist surely would have appreciated."  --Booklist

"A fascinating and illuminating book. It charts the journey of one of our nation's founders . . . with creativity, energy, and astonishing detail."  --Signal

Other titles by Joan Dash

Other titles by Dusan Petricic