Benjamin Franklinstein Lives! by Matthew McElligott and Larrry Tuxbury (Putnam, 2010, younger middle grade, 128 pages).
Young Victor lives an orderly, scientific sort of life--calculating the odds of winning the science fair (volcano models statistically do well, especially if you make it Vesuvius and add screaming townsfolk), and creating a model for his mother on how to find the perfect tenant for the downstairs apartment of their house.
But his mother cares not a whit for Victor's model, and instead rents the apartment out to an eccentric gentleman dressed in 18th century garb who pays in gold---none other than Ben Franklin himself, awoken from suspended animation! After more than 200 years asleep in Victor's basement, Ben is back--and hungry for the electricity he needs to keep going.
Ben is convinced he's been revived for a reason by the Modern Order of Prometheus, the secret society that put him to sleep in the first place, but there is no sign that the order exists anymore. A daring mission to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia comes up empty, and Ben begins to doubt whether he's been awoken for a reason, or simply, as Victor thinks, it was a freak electrical storm that woke him. But either way, Victor is stuck running interference as Ben copes with the modern world. And even more stressfully, he has to balance Ben's electrical intake--too much, and Ben's a raging monster; too little, and he's a Zombie fixated on finding "food," with disastrous consequences.
Ben proves to be a trooper when it comes to time travel, delighting in all the unfamiliar inventions around him. Of course, being Ben, his delight is sometimes an embarrassing inconvenience, attracting a bit too much attention, but all in all, he does quite well. It's especially interesting to see Ben trying to make sense of what he sees by linking it to 18th century science.
Filled with little diagrams and illustrations, this funny and fast-paced book is a great one to give to the science-minded fourth through sixth grader. But along with the science, it's an interesting study in character. Ben is big hearted, impulsive, and indefatigable---the opposite of Victor. It turns out that Ben is just what Victor needs to give him push out of the safe and familiar.
This one has been sitting around the house for some time--I wasn't sure it would be my cup of tea. Happily, I ended up finding it a pleasant diversion, and now will look for the sequel --Benjamin Franklinstein Meets the Fright Brothers (Sept 2011).