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|Great and only Barnum : the tremendous, stupendous life of showman P.T. Barnum|
Author: Fleming, Candace
An in-depth look at the creator of the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 7.00
Points: 5.0 Quiz: 131627
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 8.30
Points: 9.0 Quiz: 46054
Booklist - 06/01/2009 *Starred Review* In this sweeping yet cohesive biography, Fleming so finely tunes Barnum’s legendary ballyhoo that you can practically hear the hucksterism and smell the sawdust. It’s a quintessentially American tale: born poor in 1810, Phineas Taylor Barnum stormed through the nineteenth century as a small-time pitchman, museum founder, traveling exhibitionist, and finally, circus owner. Along the way he improvised (kick-starting his career with the impulsive purchase of a “161-year-old” slave), misled (a “mermaid” that was no more than creative taxidermy), and persevered through the kind of fiery calamities that would’ve squashed most men. Fleming lingers on Barnum’s American Museum, guiding us through each exhibit as if we were the ones plunking down 25 cents to see the Swiss Bearded Lady or the Living Skeleton. Fleming doesn’t shrink from the Prince of Humbug’s dark side, either, painting him as a heavy drinker, a potential corrupter of the dwarf Tom Thumb (who was smoking cigars by age seven), and a cruel husband who hastily married a woman 40 years his junior. The material is inherently juicy, but credit Fleming’s vivacious prose, bountiful period illustrations, and copious source notes for fashioning a full picture of one of the forbearers of modern celebrity. - Copyright 2009 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 09/01/2009 Gr 6 Up— It is unlikely that Barnum ever actually said "There's a sucker born every minute," but he freely admitted to being a master of the "humbug"—a spectacle that both fooled and entertained the public. This highly readable biography uses primary sources, including Barnum's own words, to trace the man's roller-coaster life from his boyhood in Connecticut to his early career as the creator of the country's most famous "museums" (comparable to sideshows) to his later role as the master of enormously successful circuses, winning and losing several fortunes along the way. Fleming captures Barnum's exuberant personality and describes how his gift for promotion and dedication to delivering what the public wanted made him the world's most famous showman. She also reveals the private Barnum, a man who valued culture, had deep religious beliefs, and devoted considerable time and funds to charity and public service. Fleming is admiring of Barnum, but does not dismiss his weaknesses and faults. The text is supplemented with sidebars and reproductions of period photos and illustrations, including several of Barnum's advertisements. The bibliography includes Web sites and a selection of primary- and secondary-source books, and notes are done in paragraph format. This book goes beyond traditional biography to give students an objective and informative glimpse into the sometimes-exploitative world of 19th-century entertainment. An outstanding choice for all middle level and secondary collections.—Mary Mueller, Rolla Junior High School, MO - Copyright 2009 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 10/01/2009 If the name Barnum is now associated in most readers’ minds with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, those readers are in for a treat as they follow Phineas Taylor (also known as “Tale”) Barnum’s colorful career as he makes, loses, and recoups more fortunes than most people will ever see, and keeps American and European audiences in thrall for over half of the nineteenth century. Fleming tells Tale’s tale with gusto, not only covering the biographical details of his neglected family, his battle with alcohol, and his knavish attitude toward veracity, but also taking her audience on a “saloon”-by-“saloon” tour of Barnum’s American Museum with its human and inanimate curiosities. Examining several of the promotional stunts that established Barnum’s reputation as a hoaxer, Fleming is careful to set his antics into the social context of public expectations, particularly the willingness of audiences to enjoy examining and debating the provenance of oddities on their own. Fleming often turns to Barnum’s writings (as well as secondary sources) for basic information and commentary, which may lead readers to uncritical acceptance of his own ballyhoo. But the extensive gallery of period photos, engravings, and advertising bills are worth the price of admission, and bibliography, source notes, index, and web resources will assist students in turning a rousing good read into an entertaining school report. Pranksters, bluffers, tale-tellers, and anyone who likes “a bit of good-natured deception” will savor acquaintance with this kindred spirit. EB - Copyright 2009 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.