(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Meltzer notes that, although many biographies of Franklin have been written, relatively few modern versions have been published. Yet, in the twentieth century, unknown materials were found and research discovered much new information about Franklin. The new materials and information allow the biographer to provide added dimensions to Franklin’s character and to explore the factors affecting his life in more depth. While many authors have concentrated on specific aspects of Franklin’s life, Meltzer’s intention was to incorporate the new discoveries and to provide the young reader with a total portrait of the individual.

In his introduction, Meltzer explains the title Benjamin Franklin: The New American. He considers Franklin to be the “new American” in three senses. First, Meltzer suggests that Franklin was the first “self-made” American—a man who began life poor but, through his own efforts, attained high office, renown, and wealth. He set a pattern that modern Americans seek to emulate. Second, Franklin was also multitalented; his interests and accomplishments were wide ranging, a trait in which many Americans take pride. Third, Franklin was the modern scientist, the pragmatist who sought scientific, rather than superstitious, explanations of phenomena. This characteristic can be observed in the practicality of Americans and in the high esteem awarded to scientific endeavors. Meltzer sees Franklin as a comfortable, down-to-earth person, a revolutionary personage to whom modern readers can relate more readily...

(The entire section is 632 words.)