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Benjamin Banneker: Genius of Early America
by Lillie Patterson, Illustrated by David Scott Brown

Publication Date:
List Price: $1.00
Format: Hardcover, 142 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
Target Age Group: Middle Grade
ISBN13: 9780687029006
Imprint: Abingdon Press
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Parent Company: Abingdon Press
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Book Description:

True, young Benjamin's "eyes fairly danced with excitement," but it's contagious: this is an inspirational biography so thoroughly conversant with black aspirations and Maryland history (the author is a black Baltimore librarian) and so attentive to the particulars of its hero's accomplishments as to make him a hero indeed. At six he becomes the proud co-owner of 100 "Crown Colony of Maryland" acres. From the Bible (and his grandmother) he learns to read; a Quaker schoolmaster opens up a "new world" of mathematics, of "parts to be added, divided, made larger or smaller, taken apart and put together again." On Patterson's part, calculated words. The sight of a watch, and its loan, starts him building "the wonderful wooden clock" that first makes him famous. Educated neighbors, the Quaker Ellicotts, acquaint him with surveying and astronomy; and, at almost 60, he exchanges most of his farm for a lifelong annuity and time to pursue his new interests. Though the account is dramatized, what is invented is not implausible--and what is crucial or controversial is forthrightly stated. Banneker collaborates with Andrew Ellicott in surveying the land for the new capital city; then, after Pierre L'Enfant is dismissed, the two execute his plans. Did Banneker himself redraw the plans from memory? The evidence is lost, we're informed; sufficient, the ascertainable. But what is most intriguing, and made Banneker still "more famous," is his almanac. From the details of its compilation--complete to original astronomical charts (B. Franklin's were borrowed)--we come to appreciate its significance in demonstrating (as a publisher's foreword noted) "that the colour of the skin is in no way connected with strength of mind or intellectual powers." So, BB, "philomath"—in the most meticulously appreciative young biography yet. —Kirkus Review

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