It was weird enough that a book called Benjamin Franklin: You’ve Got Mail arrived in my mailbox from Disney Hyperion, but far stranger is that this is a sequel to a 2015 novel called Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in My… While I never read the original, I did read the Amazon reviews and it was enough to let me know that it ended on a cliffhanger. The first few pages also catch you up to speed on everything that you missed last time on Benjamin Franklin.
Ike Saturday previously stole one of his step father’s colonial stamps (from his rare stamp collection) to send a letter to Benjamin Franklin containing a map of the 50 states and a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. Somehow, this actually worked in sending the items to the past where they resulted in a huge snafu and now Benjamin Franklin is the most hated man in the colonies. In order to set things right, Ike decides to ship himself back to the past to help his pen pal, who he affectionately refers to as “B-Freazy.”
For several reasons, I instantly started picturing William Daniels playing Franklin, who starred on ABC’s Boy Meets World as Mr. Feeny and was also in the film musical 1776, where he played John Adams (Ben Franklin was in that film, too). I began to see this book series serving as source material for a DCOM and while I didn’t exactly love the book, it has a great premise and a lot of potential. I may be pessimistic on the format and execution of this tale, but if any creatives at Disney Channel are reading this, take a look at the potential.
What’s wrong with the book is the way it is written. A clever device is having all of the pages unfold through letters between Ike and his girlfriend back home, Claire, as well as some journal pages from Benjamin Franklin. However, the book is full of run on sentences, incorrect capitalizations, and unbelievable ramblings from alleged 13-year-olds. But if the kids seem wise beyond their years, one of our founding fathers sounds downright dumb in his journal entries, which could have at least brought some balance to the mix. The irony is that one of the many unfunny jokes points out how bad the Star Wars prequels are, yet this was tough to get through (at just 208 pages) and is probably worse than its predecessor.
Perhaps my hopes were too high having read the credits of the authors before I opened the first page. Alan Zweibel is an Emmy winner and an original writer on Saturday Night Live, of which I’ve seen almost every episode, and I’m a huge fan of Gilda Radner, who he also wrote a book about. Adam Mansbach has also caught my attention with his adult children’s books, Go the **** to Sleep and You Have to ******* Eat. It’s as if their ability to create comedic situations somehow cancels each other out on these pages. Other than a really great concept, the rest of the book falls flat.
Benjamin Franklin: You’ve Got Mail is aimed at middle school readers, ages 10 to 14. However, I can honestly say that at this age, I wouldn’t have finished reading it and my sense of humor had already elevated beyond this. While it does give closure to anyone feeling like the first book ended without resolve, it also leaves itself open to a third adventure and I just hope that if it happens, I don’t have to review it.