Monday, April 6, 2015

NONFICTION MONDAY: Mesmerized by Mara Rockliff


Discover how Benjamin Franklin’s scientific method challenged a certain Dr. Mesmer’s mysterious powers in a whimsical look at a true moment in history.

The day Ben Franklin first set foot in Paris, France, he found the city all abuzz. Everyone was talking about something new. Remarkable. Thrilling. Strange. Something called Science!

But soon the straightforward American inventor Benjamin Franklin is upstaged by a compelling and enigmatic figure: Dr. Mesmer. In elaborately staged shows, Mesmer, wearing a fancy coat of purple silk and carrying an iron wand, convinces the people of Paris that he controls a magic force that can make water taste like a hundred different things, cure illness, and control thoughts! But Ben Franklin is not convinced. Will his practical approach of observing, hypothesizing, and testing get to the bottom of the mysterious Mesmer’s tricks? A rip-roaring, lavishly illustrated peek into a fascinating moment in history shows the development and practice of the scientific method—and reveals the amazing power of the human mind.


The kind of nonfiction being published for children these days seems to get better and better.  This is a wonderfully fun book as well as being a perfect book for teaching the scientific method.  History and science all in one book, Mesmerized presents the interesting story of Ben Franklin helping the king and queen of France to expose a fraud who was convincing many people to pay money to use 'a force' to 'help' people with illnesses or even just the curious experience this 'force'.  Ben Franklin used the scientific method to show that there was no such force, just the power of people's mind and the power of expectation.  Today we call this the placebo effect, something the author explains at the end of the book.  

I especially enjoyed the creative illustrations that beautifully complemented the text.  It was fun to see some of the comparisons the author and illustrator made like Ben Franklin as an apple pie and Dr. Mesmer as a layered torte which the illustrator took from the text and illustrated.  This book has a multitude of teaching possibilities, everything from history, science, and the power of words and pictures together.  A definite winner of a book and I loved it.

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