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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Back to the Future With Ben: To the Future, Ben Franklin (Magic Tree House #32) by Mary Pope Osborne

It was an extra hot July day in Frog Creek, Pennsylvania.

"Let's go do something," said Annie.

"Too hot!" said Jack.<

"We could go swimming!" Annie suggests.

Jack stubbornly keeps reading his book. Annie looks out the window.

"WOW! LIGHTNING!!" SHE SHOUTS.

"Nice try." said Jack.

"No joke!" said Annie. "It must have been... MAGIC!"

But after Annie's been gone to investigate for a few minutes, Jack puts his book down with a sigh and follows her into the Frog Creek woods to their special big oak tree. Annie is waiting with a "told-you-so" smile on her face, the ladder dangling from the Magic Tree house beside her. Inside the tree house there is a parchment from Morgan Le Fay.

In old Philadelphia

A paper must be signed.

Help Dr. Ben

Make up his mind.

If his fears start to grow,>

There's a place he must go.

In their Pennsylvania book in the tree house Jack turns to a page showing a cobblestone street in post-colonial Philadelphia. Jack points to the page and wishes to go there, and with many spins the magic tree house comes to rest in a tree in the yard of Benjamin Franklin's brick house. Annie has just hidden the tree house's rope ladder when a lady comes out with a lunch basket, looking for a boy called Louis. She tells them that the basket is for Dr. Ben' lunch at the Pennsylvania State House. Jack and Annie volunteer to take it and soon find themselves slipping inside a big brick building, where they peek inside a large room, with a dais where George Washington is seated in a large, fancy chair in front of a room full of men in knee pants with long hair, seated at tables. Dr. Ben Franklin is there, looking weary, and the others are arguing hotly.

"We have no Bill of Rights!" ONE SHOUTS.

"Or freedom of speech."

"Too much power to the national government!

"What about trial by jury?"

Jack consults his Pennsylvania book.

"Oh, man!" whispers Jack. "They're creating the United States Constitution."

With a gasp Annie reads the note from Morgan Le Fay again.

"I get it!" Annie said. "A paper must be signed!"

Now Annie and Jack understand what their mission is... to persuade the reluctant Benjamin Franklin to sign on to James Madison's draft of the U.S. Constitution. Without the Constitution, the United States will never exist and the former colonies will remain a loose confederation of quarrelsome states. But what is it that he and Annie can show Ben Franklin to persuade him to vote for the Constitution agreement? Re-reading the information on Franklin in their Pennsylvania book, they are reminded that Dr. Ben founded the first public library in America. They have a great public library back in Frog Creek!

And Dr. Ben, thinking he's playing a make-believe game like his grandchildren love, is treated to a trip to the future in downtown Frog Creek. He is fascinated with the cars on the street and airplanes flying over, but one thing he notices defies logic...

"I don't understand--why are your clotheslines so high?"

"Those are power lines that carry electricity into all the buildings," Jack said.

"MY electricity?" says Ben.

And when, inside the air-conditioned Frog Creek Public Library, Dr. Ben sees everyone studying and borrowing books and using the computers freely, he is proud to have established the first public library. And when he recognizes the Great Seal of the United States on one of the library's computers, he remembers helping design it in 1776. He reads aloud the motto they wrote.

"E PLURIBUS UNUM."

"OUT OF MANY, ONE!"

And Jack and Annie return a no-longer weary Dr. Ben to his own very important time, determined that the founding fathers can write a Constitution that they can all agree upon, one that can carry the nation forward into the future, in Mary Pope Osborne's To the Future, Ben Franklin! (Magic Tree House (R)) (Harper, 2019). Osborne's recent time-travel story for rising chapter book readers is a timely read for elementary graders with its message that managing a democracy has never been easy, but always worth it.

For kids who want to know the historical events behind this fantasy time-travel novel or for across-the-curriculum class novel studies, share this one with its companion book, Benjamin Franklin: A nonfiction companion to Magic Tree House 32: To the Future, Ben Franklin! (Magic Tree House (R) Fact Tracker).

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