HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Hatmaker’s Sign: A Story by Benjamin Franklin
Author: Candace Fleming
Illustrator: Robert Andrew Parker
Publisher: Scholastic, republished in 2000
ISBN-13: 978-0329216894 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0329216899 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0531071748 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 053107174X (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 5 and up
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Fleming, Candace. The Hatmaker’s Sign: A Story by Benjamin Franklin (originally published in 1998 by Scholastic). Thomas Jefferson is writing the Declaration of Independence. He knows exactly what needs to be said. However, various members of the Continental Congress are suggesting all kinds of changes to the Declaration. Jefferson is so exasperated that he is ready to quit. So Benjamin Franklin tries to soothe his friend by telling the story of a hat maker and his sign. The hat maker produces a copy of a sign for his shop consisting of ten words and a picture of a hat. As he is on his way to the sign maker, however, he encounters a several people, including his own wife and the minister, who have strong opinions about what to say or not say on the sign, and after they make their suggestions, he has nothing for a sign. What will the experienced sign maker say and do?
Of course, the moral of the story is that you just can’t please everyone, so you should do what you know to be right. Author Candace Fleming offers a retelling of this parable-like tale which is culled from The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. Artist Robert Parker works in ink and watercolor to create a sketchy style that captures colonial times, Jefferson’s distress, and Franklin’s wit. The book is great for studying about colonial America and the emerging United States government, with endnotes about Franklin, Jefferson, and the writing of the Declaration of Independence, including more information on Franklin’s love of storytelling and Jefferson’s anxiety over the changes the Continental Congress made to the Declaration of Independence. Recently, the Mayor of our city used this book for Family Reading Night at our local library. The account will help to whet young readers’ appetites for American history.