The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum [With Bonus Disc of Photographs from the Print Book]
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The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum [With Bonus Disc of Photographs from the Print Book]

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  456 ratings  ·  131 reviews
Come one, come all to this larger-than-life biography of P. T. Barnum, showman and founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Visit Barnum's American Museum, established in only four weeks Meet Madame Josephine Clofulia, the Swiss Bearded Lady. Get to know Tom Thumb, a miniature man (only twenty-five inches tall), and his tiny bride (thirty-two inches). Watch as the circus...more
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published June 20th 2011 by Brilliance Audio (first published September 8th 2009)
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I thoroughly enjoyed this quick, entertaining read. It was incredible to learn P.T. Barnum's history, from growing up with a prankster grandfather through his opening of the American Museum, tours of Europe with Tom Thumb, and his grand finale of the Greatest Show on Earth. Barnum raked in the dough fooling America's citizens and seemed to enjoy every minute of it - as did the citizens! No one seemed to mind his "humbuggery" a bit. One of the facts I found most interesting was, during the beginn...more
Erin Sterling
Photographs and pen-and-ink illustrations
Radical Change
Grades 4 and up

The subtitle, "The Tremendous Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum" perfectly describes this excellent biography that reads like an exciting story. Fascinating look at a man who was both an innovative, creative businessmen and an absent father. The book captures the museum and circus he created so vividly, it makes you feel like you were there. Fun sidebars explain things such as "Mr. Proler's Secret Recipe for Bear Gr...more
Beth G.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
What a superbly put together book. Fleming shows off everything that was magical, mythical, and morally corrupt about Barnum with impeccably well-researched prose and a treasure trove of images. I'm not sure whether I adore him or despise him after reading this book, but he's certainly fascinating.

Barnum grew up in a rural area of New England and got his start running good-natured con games after it was clear that he would be useless at farm labor. His first big break came after he had moved his...more
I did pretty much read this book through in one sitting. It is definitely readable - written in a straightforward style. The literary artistry and aesthetic appeal were lacking for me - the layouts were simple and the entire text is black and white which I thought was odd when you think about Barnum's work- it was probably filled with amazing color. The black/white contributed somewhat to the authority, though - because most of the pictures were of primary sources - pictures of Barnum and the cu...more
Fleming has masterfully combined the story of P.T. Barnum's colorful life (he was not always a saint!) and his ever-expanding knack for show business, weaving in the history of the 19th century to create an interesting and well-balanced look at the man and the time. Though this is meant for a young audience -- I would say it's appropriate and of interest to 4th grade and up -- the author doesn't shy away from the truth of his ambition, the neglect of his family, his alcoholism and religious rede...more
Jamie Poorman

APA Citation: Fleming, C. (2009) The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum. New York: Schwartz & Wade.

Genre: Biography

Format: Print (Hardcover, 151 pages)

Awards: Yalsa Nonfiction Award Finalist (2010)

Selection Process: Booklist starred review, Junior Literary Guild selection

The fast-paced, visually appealling format of this book feels like a visit to Barnum’s greatest show on earth itself! Filled with photographs and sidebar notes that p...more
P.T. Barnum is probably best known as a founder of the Barnum and Bailey circus, but readers may be surprised to learn that was one of the last things he did. Barnum had a knack for show business and marketing, and knew just what to do to lure customers in. He spent many years collecting exhibits and exotic people for his American Museum, then worked with a number of circuses before finally partnering with Bailey. His life story is a fascinating look at how one man change the face of entertainme...more
By all accounts (particularly his own!) Barnum was an amazing personality who led a stupendous life. Though this short biography can only graze the surface, it does a wonderful job bringing the showman to life. Even as a young man, Barnum spent a lot of time "thinking up ways to make money while avoiding work". Not that he was not hard-working, but what interested him was "headwork", not laboring in the soil. The book is very readable, with many sidebars of interesting facts, and black and white...more
Mrs. Trimble
This book is the story about Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum. It chronicles P.T.’s life including the rise and fall of P.T.’s extraordinary museum and later his business in the traveling circus. P.T. was a very driven and determined man who always knew he was destined for greatness. He worked very hard, oftentimes neglected his family, and was known for his great “pranks” on the public. He faced a lot of trials and tribulations throughout his life but always managed to come out on “top”. During the...more
I don't often read biographies, but I enjoyed this one immensely. It is not only about P. T. Barnum, but about his museums and circus.
It's not boring but very interesting, especially if you love the circus
The Great and Only Barnum was truly a bigger than life figure. Although many of us have heard about the Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth or Ringly Brothers, I did realize how the circus as an institution had developed and Barnum's try innovation in this area. Barnum started as as a collector of objects. His first venture was to buy a museum. In the mid-1800's museum were typically private and held private collections of individuals. Barnum wanted his to be more. He scoured the earth for...more
Vernon Area Public Library KIDS
Phineas T. Barnum did indeed have an interesting life. Prior to listening to this audiobook (performed by Christopher Lane) I knew little about Barnum besides his namesake circus. One of his more creative and successful projects and money-making schemes was his "American Museum" which housed curiosities from throughout the world. To create his museum, he bought up collections from other museums that were in financial distress. His museum wasn't limited to just the usual things, but he collected...more
Candace Fleming did an incredible job of organizing the "Stupendous Life" of The Great and Only Barnum into an engaging and fun biography. I learned a lot about the ambitions and personal challenges that motivated Barnum to reach for the top in this book.

I always like reading about how famous people acted as children and it amused me that Barnum was a penny pincher even then. I also found it interesting that Barnum could never sit still for very long. He always had a new project going and when...more
A biography of PT Barnum, that like his circus, does not disappoint. From a child Barnum was an interesting and business minded person. He wanted to make money and entertain, which shows through his entire lifetime as he cards for little else.

Barnum was very successful throughout his life, but always encountered setbacks. He was not always the most ethical man (he owned a slave who he claimed to be the oldest women in the world) and he tried many different ideas on his climb to the top of show b...more
Mrs. Lopez
I have come up with a new title for this splendid biography. It should be titled P.T. Barnum: The Man Who Could Sell Water to Fish and Air to Humans. What an amazing individual, although not always ethical in his business practices or care of humans and animals. Barnum's mind seems to have always been running on overdrive thinking up creative ways to make money, and money he did make! Flemming does a thorough job capturing the mood/tone/feel of his life, the times, and audiences. People travele...more
Ms. Patterson
I usually shy away from reading children's biographies, because they tend to be either two simplistic or all style and no substance. I decided to read THE GREAT AND ONLY BARNUM because of all the wonderful reviews I'd read, plus I've always been a wee bit curious about Mr. Barnum.

Visually, I like this book. Its chapters begin with what look like advertisement cards for Mr. Barnum's attractions. Each chapter focuses on one event or part of Barnum's life, told succinctly with just enough descript...more
Book talk: Come one, come all and learn about the extraordinary life of P.T. Barnum and the stupendous history of his American Museum and the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Barnum was famous for many attractions: 25 in. tall Tom Thumb, 7 ft. 11 in. tall Anna Swan, the first public aquarium complete with a beluga whale, Zazel the human cannonball, Salamander the fire horse, and an 11 and a 1/2 ft. tall elephant named Jumbo to name a few. But perhaps the biggest attraction was P.T. Barnum himself. He b...more
Margo Tanenbaum
I thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating look into the life of the renowned showman P. T. Barnum. This larger-than-life figure is not easy to capture on paper, but Fleming does an admirable job capturing his elephant-sized personality. I especially liked the sections on his early years, where we learn how a small time boy known as Tale from the tiny village of Bethel, Connecticut evolved into P.T. Barnum, the world-famous showman. For example, we learn how Tale came from a family of practical jokes...more
Stephanie Jobe
I always say that I want to read biography so maybe this will be the start. First off if you go to your library, you won’t have a hard time spotting this book because in the humdrum world of biographies even the spine on this baby is eye catching. The calligraphy throughout ties the entire book together making it as much art as book almost. The photographs used are spread fairly evenly keeping your eye engaged. Sections are divided by simple headings and there are side boxes with additional tidb...more
I was amazed at how interesting this book was. Barnum was a larger than life character who was responsible for all sorts of entertainment aspects that have become commonplace, like the three ring circus and celebrity obsession. I was so intrigued by his character as well - he made his living essentially by duping people, but he always respected his audiences and was the first to admit a hoax. Fleming does a great job of placing his life within the context of the late nineteenth century explosion...more

The photobiography details the life of Phineas Taylor Barnum, exuberant creator of sideshows, circuses, and “humbugs”. Children will recognize Barnum & Bailey’s Circus, but few will know about his early days as a clerk or creation of his sideshow/museum. He is rendered much more human after readers discover his humble beginnings in Connecticut, as the namesake grandson of a well-known jokester. Barnum’s personal anecdotes are told in sidebars throughout, allowing the reader to fully engage w

This book had a lot of interesting information about the famous P.T. Barnum. I didn't really know that much about him before reading the book, but I found that he did a lot of interesting things throughout his life. There were many pictures in the book as well, which is always helpful to get a picture of what people and different things look like, and to help add to the story the book is telling. I found it interesting that he started with museums before making the circus big. I also thought it...more
Vinnie Marseco
I must say I was pleasantly surprised with this biography. At first I figured it was just going to be another boring biography about P.T. Barnum's life. It was exactly this, but more! It went through great details about his life growing up in Connecticut and moving back and forth to New York before he ever became famous. Not to mention all the financial struggles he endured as well. Also, the way that Barnum was so ingenious at figuring out how to manipulate societies interests, I feel, is reall...more
Coral Bachen
Not only did I choose The Great and Only Barnum…because I have found circuses to be the most bizarre, entertaining, and of course “Greatest Show on Earth”, but I noticed it is a YALSA-ALA finalist. Perfect for young adults, I’d say! This book is filled with fun things such as behind-the-scenes info on Barnum and his folks, real photographs of the circus life, and cool pop-up boxes with even more to learn (check out the glossary of Circus Talk on page 122; you’ll sound like a real gazoony when yo...more
Jill Dyl
The Great and Only Barnum, The Tremendous Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum by Candace Fleming is an outstanding biography. With large print and 140 pages, it is a quick read. The chronological order, chapter divisions, many pictures, and large pages lend to a visually engaging book. In the classroom, it would be an excellent choice for a reluctant reader. When I open this book, it feels like stepping into a circus tent. Fleming does not depict Barnum as a one-dimensional character, but ins...more
Jack Maness
(This is a tab:))"The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum" was a fantastic book! This book really showed me that biographies don't have to be boring. I really enjoyed reading this because I was marveled at the genius of this man! Mr. Barnum had many roadblocks in his life, a drinking problem and many, many, MANY fires destroying his life, but he still managed to get back on his feet every single time. He had a strong faith that worked a miracle to bring...more
What I found most appealing about this book, as a librarian, was two main points:

1. The book's presentations combined sidebars, visual images & the main content in a splendid way providing both readers & non-readers a way to explore not only this particular individual but to tackle a biography. The text is slightly larger which also gives the idea that the book is not as "text heavy" again giving many reluctant readers a more likely willingness to pick up the book.

2. The author did not s...more
Nov 30, 2009 Becky rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 5th grade and up
One of the most interesting, well-designed, and best-written biographies I've ever read! Give this to someone with a biography assignment and tell them it reads like a really good chapter book! I don't want to give too much away, but the ups and downs of Barnum's life were fascinating.

Lately I've been thinking about the idea of "seeking one's fortune." This seemed to happen a lot more in the olden days: your parents provide for you to the point where you can walk off down the road and do it for...more
Amy Adams
I'm really torn about this book. I wanted so badly to love it. But, it just fell short in some ways. I'm going to make a pros and cons list about this book to help me decide how many stars to give it. I keep wavering between two and four!

-It's based on many primary sources
-It has quite a few pictures
-It has tons of valuable information
-Every picture has a caption so you know what's going on in it

-The pictures are difficult to see. Some of this is because the pictures are simply old, b...more
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I have always been a storyteller. Even before I could write my name, I could tell a good tale. And I told them all the time. As a preschooler, I told my neighbors all about my three-legged cat named Spot. In kindergarten, I told my classmates about the ghost that lived in my attic. And in first grade I told my teacher, Miss Harbart, all about my family's trip to Paris, France.

I told such a good st...more
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