Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Great and Only Barnum

Title:               The Great and Only Barnum
Category:       Biography
Grade:            9-14
Author:          Candace Fleming
Publisher:       Schwartz & Wade      
Place:              New York
Date:               2009
Pages:             142

Barnum’s biography is a fabulous, easy-to-read look at the world’s greatest showman. 

With biographies generally a hard sell, Candace Fleming has created an enticing look into P.T. Barnum’s life and filled it with visuals, and extra stories and information.  Chapters are separated by full-page illustrated titles, the font is larger than one would generally expect in a nonfiction work, and virtually every page contains photographs, primary source drawings, captions, or black sidebars with extra information or supplemental stories.  The student-friendly text and high visual appeal would make this book accessible even to upper elementary and tweens and younger teens would definitely appreciate this resource for biographical reports.  The narrative, personable writing style would even allow this book to be read simply for pleasure. Although persuading students to select it could be difficult; several might find they were pleasantly surprised at the contents.

I found this book to be an extremely pleasant and intriguing read.  While I have always been fond of the circus, and even entertained thoughts of training as a clown and joining it when I was younger, the book opened up leagues of information that I knew nothing about in the life of P.T. Barnum, mainly his museums and tours prior to beginning in circus work.  Fleming has managed to create a readable, visually appealing, and extremely informative and interesting work on a topic that might be of higher interest than other biographies, but of which little is known.  My only concern would be that older students might reject the book because of its overall tone and visual cues that it was written for a slightly younger audience.


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