Book Review- The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum by Candace Fleming
Fleming, Candace. 2009. The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum. Ill by Ray Fenwick. New York, New York: Schwartz and Wade Books. ISBN 9780375841972
B. Plot Summary
“Come One! Come All! To the Most Tremendous, Stupendous, Colossal of All Shows!” The American circus was transformed by the larger-than-life character of P.T. Barnum. The Great and Only Barnum is an inside look at the personal and business life of a man who would forever alter the world of American entertainment. This biography is filled with tidbits of valuable information, such as: “When entertaining the public, it is best to have an elephant,” and “Controversy is good for business.” Fleming captures Barnum’s ability for showmanship and self-promotion, along with his less than noble character traits. A fun, informative read for 6th grade and up.
C. Critical Analysis
Candace Fleming is an award winning author of several biographies. Her novel, The Great and Only Barnum, is an interesting and informative read about the life and exploits of P.T. Barnum. She uses mainly primary sources, directly from Barnum’s own account, and the illustrations are old circus photos, ticket stubs, and engravings from the time. The text is organized chronologically according to Barnum’s life. Each chapter is titled and complete with subheadings, illustrations, and captions. Interestingly, there are numerous sidebars of relative information, including facts about: schoolhouses, slavery, his family, etc. The text is accompanied by an index and source notes.
D. Review Excerpts
· Starred review from Booklist: “The material is inherently juicy…”
· Starred review from Kirkus: “As revealing as it is entertaining.”
E. Connections and Classroom Activities
· Author study of Candace Fleming’s work· Students can write their own biography about a person they would like to get to know more about
· Students can create a timeline of Barnum’s life
· Orchestrate a class “circus” showcasing student’s various talents