Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Ben and Me is the story of the friendship between Amos, a mouse, the oldest of twenty-six siblings of a poor mouse family living in a Philadelphia church, and Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s most famous and beloved historical figures. In the introduction, author Robert Lawson claims that he is only an editor relating Amos’ story, which was written on a manuscript the size of a postage stamp and discovered during the alteration of an old Philadelphia house. What follows are fifteen short chapters, told in the first person and illustrated by Lawson.

Because of their poverty—they were poor as church mice—Amos left home in 1745, hoping to assist his struggling family. Exhausted, he finds himself in the rooms of the already-famous Benjamin Franklin and falls asleep in Franklin’s fur cap. When he awakens the next morning in a cold room, Amos tells Franklin that the fireplace is inefficient because too much heat goes up the chimney. He suggests placing a heat source in the middle of the room, similar to the hot chestnut around which he and his family sometimes gathered to keep warm. The result is the so-called Franklin stove. Afterward, a bargain is struck between man and mouse: Twice each week, Franklin provides Amos’ family with cheese, rye bread, and kernels of wheat, and in return Amos assists Franklin. By inhabiting the latter’s fur cap, Amos frequently offers advice to Ben, being thus the cause of Franklin’s success and fame.


(The entire section is 606 words.)