Thursday, March 10, 2011

Benjamin Franklinstein Lives! (Book)

Author: Matthew McElligott and Larry Tuxbury. Release date: 2010. Publisher:  G.P. Putnam Son’s. ISBN: 9780399252297.
Plot summary: Middle-school student, Victor Godwin is an inventor, scientist and straight-A student. He spends hours upon hours perfecting his science fair project through thorough investigation and testing. Victor believes that everything should be planned or tested properly before it is begun; he never does anything on the fly. Victor’s perfect scientific world is thrown for a loop, however, when the body of Benjamin Franklin, held in a hibernating state for over 200 years in his basement, is awoken by a mysterious thunderstorm. Ben must feed on electricity to stay awake, but Victor soon discovers that too much turns Ben into a maniacally hungry monster. Ben assures Victor that he has been awoken for some higher purpose related to an underground organization known as the Modern Order of Prometheus, but the pair are unable to determine just what that purpose is. In the meantime, Ben uses his scientific skills to help Victor ensure a victory at the science fair. But why has Benjamin Franklin been awoken? Will Victor ever learn the truth?
Review:  This unique, clever and often hilarious novel is Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets Frankenstein. Victor is an uptight middle-school student who spends his days calculating and testing his various scientific theories. He appears to be very rigid and lacking in spontaneity. Mention is made of his parents getting a divorce, and older readers might pick up on Victor’s constant “tests” as a way to maintain control over his life resulting from his family splitting apart. Benjamin Franklin is an unusual father-figure for Victor to idolize, but that is precisely what ends up happening. Ben encourages Victor to step outside of his comfort zone, helping him to break out of his shell. Apart from these more sophisticated undertones, younger readers will enjoy the novel for its humor and excitement. Many pages are accompanied by illustrations or diagrams of various scientific projects or machinery Victor encounters. Some of these drawings actually serve an educational purpose, while others simply enhance the story. Overall, ‘tweens, especially boys, will enjoy this silly “horror” novel with a deeper message.
Genre: Fiction/Horror/Humor
Reading level: Grades 4-6
Similar titles:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney.
Personal thoughts:  I really enjoyed this clever, quick read. Benjamin Franklinstein is a very lovable “monster” and Victor is an interesting protagonist as well. I appreciated the novel’s undertones of self-confidence and dealing with broken families as well. Upon finishing the story, I was excited to learn it is the first in an upcoming series. I look forward to seeing how the series fares.
Themes: Science, historical figures, horror.  
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from School Library Journal and Booklist.
Series Information:  First novel in Benjamin Franklinstein series.
Character information:
Victor Godwin – An uptight middle-school student who spends most of his time working on his science fair project and testing various inventions. He meets and befriends Benjamin Franklinstein after he is awoken in Victor’s basement.
Benjamin Franklin – A “Frankenstein” type monster version of the famous historical figure who, having slept in a state of suspended animation for over 200 years, is awoken in Victor’s basement. Believes he has been awoken by the Modern Order of Prometheus to serve a higher purpose.
Scott Weaver – Victor’s best friend. Hopes to create a potato battery for the science fair.
Annotation:  Victor Godwin’s life is forever changed when Benjamin Franklin, who has been in a state of hibernation for over 200 years, is suddenly awoken from his electric chamber in Victor’s basement!


  1. Hi Hylary,
    My son and his friends are starting a book club this summer and are reading this book. Do you think you can help us with some discussion questions? The boys are going to be in 5th grade in the fall.

    1. Hi Flora! No problem, here are a couple to think about:

      - Do you think that the pictures in this book add to the story? Do they make it more funny? Do they help explain things? How can pictures bring the words in a story to life?

      - How would you describe Victor? Is he a happy person? Sad? Does he like things planned out or does he like surprises? How are you like Victor? How are you different?

      - Who was your favorite character in the novel? Why?

      - What was your favorite part of the novel? Least favorite? Why?

      - Are you planning to read the sequel to this novel, "Benjamin Franklinstein Meets Thomas Deadison"? What would you like to see happen in the next story?

      - Do you think that Ben was able to help Victor? In what ways do you think that he was helpful?

      - Have you ever participated in a science fair? Would you like to? What kind of experiment/project would you consider entering?

      - If you could bring someone famous from the past to life, who would it be?

    2. Excellent discussion questions, Hylary! I'll let you know how it goes. We are meeting next week.

  2. We had a pretty good time discussing a lot of the above questions. The boys discussed the book for a good 30 minutes before getting antsy. Quite a few of the questions lead to other great discussion. Thanks so much.