When I started to put this post together, I was thinking about books I had recently purchased and read. On the surface, each book appeared to be very different. One was about Ben Franklin & a Frenchman named Dr. Mesmer, and the other about Robert Miller, a.k.a. Count Victor Lustig.
However as I started thinking about them a bit more, I realized that the books were quite similar. Both books have France as a common location (at least for some part of the story), and both books deal with the gullibility of individuals. In MESMERIZED, readers get a lesson in scientific method, as Ben Franklin seeks to reveal the truth behind Dr. Mesmer's "ability" to cure people. In TRICKY VIC, readers are introduced to a man who was not only able to "sell" the Eiffel Tower but also con the infamous, Al Capone.
Written for similar age audiences, each book provides teachers and readers with a wealth of information for discussion and also a look at the challenges in writing nonfiction books when even primary sources can be a bit unreliable. Additionally, both books marry text and illustrations in a way that are essential to the story. Finally, MESMERIZED and TRICKY VIC provide students with different approaches for writing biographical stories and would be excellent mentor texts.
Note: This is one of those times when I realized that any review that I could write would not live up to the reviews done by others. Please see the links listed below the book information, which will take you to some well written reviews and interviews.
Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery That Baffled All of France
by Mara Rockliff; Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno
Candlewick Press (March 10, 2015)
Audience: Grades 1 to 4
History * Scientific Method * Biographical
Indiebound | WorldCat
Links worth checking out: Shelf Awareness Review & Interview
Description from GoodReads:
Discover how Benjamin Franklin’s scientific method challenged a certain Dr. Mesmer’s mysterious powers in a whimsical look at a true moment in history.
The day Ben Franklin first set foot in Paris, France, he found the city all abuzz. Everyone was talking about something new. Remarkable. Thrilling. Strange. Something called Science!
But soon the straightforward American inventor Benjamin Franklin is upstaged by a compelling and enigmatic figure: Dr. Mesmer. In elaborately staged shows, Mesmer, wearing a fancy coat of purple silk and carrying an iron wand, convinces the people of Paris that he controls a magic force that can make water taste like a hundred different things, cure illness, and control thoughts! But Ben Franklin is not convinced. Will his practical approach of observing, hypothesizing, and testing get to the bottom of the mysterious Mesmer’s tricks? A rip-roaring, lavishly illustrated peek into a fascinating moment in history shows the development and practice of the scientific method—and reveals the amazing power of the human mind.
Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower
by Greg Pizzoli
Viking Books for Young Readers (March 10, 2015)
Audience: Grades 2 to 4
History * Law & Crime * Biographical
IndieBound | WorldCat
Description from Goodreads:
In the early 1900s, Robert Miller, a.k.a. “Count Victor Lustig,” moved to Paris hoping to be an artist. A con artist, that is. He used his ingenious scams on unsuspecting marks all over the world, from the Czech Republic, to Atlantic ocean liners, and across America. Tricky Vic pulled off his most daring con in 1925, when he managed to "sell" the Eiffel Tower to one of the city’s most successful scrap metal dealers! Six weeks later, he tried to sell the Eiffel Tower all over again. Vic was never caught. For that particular scam, anyway. . . .
Kids will love to read about Vic's thrilling life, and teachers will love the informational sidebars and back matter. Award-winner Greg Pizzoli’s humorous and vibrant graphic style of illustration mark a bold approach to picture book biography.
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