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Jumbo: This Being the True Story of the Greatest Elephant in the World
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Jumbo: This Being the True Story of the Greatest Elephant in the World

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  169 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
Jumbo was a superstar of the Victorian era. Every day tens of thousands of people would visit this adored animal known as “the Children’s Pet” or, more simply, “the Giant Elephant,” at the London Zoo. When P.T. Barnum purchased him for his Greatest Show on Earth, Jumbo’s transport to the U.S. made headlines for weeks, and he was an instant sensation in America. His name en ...more
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published April 15th 2008 by Steerforth (first published January 1st 2008)
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Jan 05, 2017 Laurie rated it it was amazing
Even though Jumbo is an elephant I think he still qualifies as a rags to riches story.

Baby Jumbo was born in Sudan around 1860. With European zoos demanding wildlife from Africa a few enterprising Sudanese began capturing baby animals in order to sell them to European zoos.
Jumbo was the first baby African elephant to arrive in Europe and was sold to the famous French zoo.
The Asian elephants were already popular in Europe but the larger African elephant was much desired.

Transporting baby Jumbo t
Jun 21, 2012 Badiss rated it liked it
Chambers traces Jumbo’s life from his capture in Africa through his long, often controversial residencies in Paris and London zoos to his last days in America. At the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, where the elephant arrived after a grueling nine-month journey, shockingly laissez faire treatment left him undersized, diseased and generally dispirited. He was sold to the Zoological Society of London, where mercurial and devious keeper Matthew Scott turned around his fortunes. Thanks to Scott’s nursi ...more
Aug 28, 2014 Kirsti rated it it was amazing
Naw, poor Jumbo :( what a sad story for almost all concerned, especially Jumbo and his trainer. This is a story I knew small facts about, but the story as a whole was unknown to me. This book follows Jumbo from capture to stardom and eventual death. The elephant whose name still lives in modern language was the first to be brought to Europe. After he was bought by a London zoo, he soon became a crowd favorite, especially with children. Eventually he came to America, amid public outcry from all o ...more
Janet C.
Jan 17, 2012 Janet C. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Janet C. by: n/a
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Radford Secondary Library
A magical blend of true story and popular science, 'Jumbo' is the wonderful, colourful biography of the greatest elephant ever known. Born in Africa in 1863, Jumbo was orphaned by ivory-hunters, 'rescued' and taken to France. Mistaken for a runt, he was sold to London Zoo, where he became the favourite of the British populace, from Queen Victoria to the young Winston Churchill - until, talent-spotted by the American circus-owner P.T. Barnum, and despite public outcry and Royal protestations, he ...more
Laura Cushing
Jan 26, 2011 Laura Cushing rated it really liked it
This is a an account of the most well-known elephant of all time, Jumbo. He became such a household name that 'jumbo' is now part of our language meaning big. At 11 feet tall, the elephant was surely that. Much more importantly though- he was the first African elephant most Europeans had ever seen. Jumbo tells the story of the elephant's capture in africa, his exhibiting in Paris and London zoos, and his travels with Barnum and Bailey circus. It is also the story of his trainer 'Jumbo' Scott, wh ...more
Jul 05, 2009 Gwen rated it really liked it
This is a quick read about Jumbo, an African elephant captured and taken to France, then sold to the London Zoo, and eventually became part of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. It's an interesting story, but predictably distressing in parts. It's not like animal collectors and trainers in the Victorian Era were particularly kind, as a rule, so there are a number of horrible stories about animals dying, being injured, or being tormented. And Jumbo meets a sad end, as you'd expect. However, he was so ...more
May 30, 2012 Vicki rated it liked it
Interesting read, I love fact/fiction based around the circus world of ages past - a golden age so rich in anecdotes, acts and colour, the good and the bad of a time when the Big Top was all and the owners, acts and animals were amazing characters and had many a tale to tell.

Fascinating to think of the journey Jumbo must have had from his birthplace to London and then on to America - when you think of travel from the 1890's it was some feat of ingenuity to transport him as a fully grown animal!

May 18, 2015 Jessica rated it liked it
It took me forever to get through this and I'm not sure why so I'll blame the writing. (Yeah, that's it!)

I do think there is some truth to that statement because the story of this African elephant's journey is very interesting. Unfortunately there is A LOT of time spent talking about the infighting among the keeper and the director of the London Zoo and even more time explaining exactly how much time it took to train Jumbo to walk into a crate. It's rather exhausting.

My advice - skip a bunch of
Nov 01, 2009 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Set in Victorian England, this is a meticulously researched true story of one of the most magnificent circus
elephants who ever lived. Jumbo was captured in Africa to be part of the collection of animals at zoos in Paris and London before finally becoming an important fixture at the Barnum, Bailey, & Hutchinson circus in the United States. Mr. Chambers vividly recreates Jumbo's world and the colorful figures who were part of it--a keeper who considered Jumbo his friend, a chilly zoo superinte
Jumbo, the African Elephant, was Barnum and Bailey's Circus' greatest attraction and super star. Poor Jumbo, though loved by so many children/people he lived rather a tragic life. As an animal lover this was hard for me to read but Chambers does a beautiful job at remaining fair to everyone involved. This covers Jumbo's whole life, his capture as a calf, stays with zoos, time with the circus and then his death. There are a lot of historical facts described besides Jumbo's life like about zoo pra ...more
May 08, 2016 GT rated it really liked it
Such a cool book. Written with meticulous detail seldom afforded a person. And this is about an elephant! Albeit the most famous elephant ever, and forever.

I though I might be in for a light romp through an elephant's 'fun' circus life. This is not that type of treatment, at all. The actual fun was discovering a bit of history I was unaware of. Now I know the origin of "jumbo sized" items, I'm schooled on the mascot of Tufts University (where my brother received his BS), and I've been exposed to
This is a nifty little book. An elephant’s biography. Of course, not just any elephant, but the PT Barnum proclaimed greatest, biggest, other –ests in the world. Not to ascribe emotions and human motivations to him, but he was a complicated animal. Orphaned, marched across the Sahara, stuck in a “cell” in the Paris zoo and finally becoming a hero in London and America. But this is also a story about 19th c. zoos, our fascination with the exotic and animal behavior. Ultimately I think this is a t ...more
Kate Canan Rizzo
Aug 02, 2015 Kate Canan Rizzo rated it really liked it
Jumbo, the elephant that inspired "Dumbo" is overall a good read. There are definitely times when it's tough to find anyone to root for, however, as nearly all of the real characters are heartless or incredibly manipulative. This is a story that will help readers understand how zoos came to be, the savagely brutal way the animals were captured and treated, an egotistical keeper who loved Jumbo more than can be described but could never form a proper bond with a human, and the way that media back ...more
May 23, 2014 Allison rated it really liked it
Excellent! A biography and history of Jumbo the elephant, the Jumbo craze in the U.K., his controversial sale to Barnum, Bailey, and Hutchinson, and his short-lived but massively popular life in the circus. Poignant, surprising, and well-paced--Chambers deftly transforms his source material into fleshed-out, complex characters with amusing and sometimes tragic stories. Don't read Water for Elephants (because it is a very bad book); read this instead! It's a nonfiction version of the book WfE wan ...more
Apr 02, 2015 Brittania09 rated it did not like it
I fell head over heels for circus lore after reading Water for Elephants, and was dying to get my hands on some real-life circus stories. The story of Jumbo seemed a perfect place to start. But this book was sad from start to finish. I turned the last page feeling disappointed, and Chambers' tone suggested that he did as well. His last line, which quotes the adage, "The bigger they come, the harder they fall," paints Jumbo's life as ultimately a let-down.

Read more here: http://wordsonwordsrevie
Sep 28, 2008 Judy rated it it was amazing
Every time I read about elephants, I am reminded of how intelligent and sensitive they are. This book is no exception. Chambers recounts the life of Jumbo and his weird trainer, Matthew Scott . Though it may sound like a goofy topic, I was interested from page one. Poor Jumbo was captured in Africa during the Victorian era and sold to the French. He then went to London and ended his life in the US as property of PT Barnum, etal. In spite of his sometimes difficult life in captvity, he was loved ...more
Mar 12, 2011 Darin rated it liked it
So, animal memoirs are my new favorite form of book. I've now expanded from monkeys and kitties to ELEPHANTS! This book was a fine, quick read. I cranked through it in a handful of days. Not the best one ever but it paints an interesting picture both of the life of Jumbo and the history of the time quite nicely. If you do read it, don't look at the pictures in the center of the book until you are done. They give away the ending. Stoopid spoilers.
Jun 22, 2008 Melody rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 07, 2008 Korynn rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
A somewhat illuminating account of Jumbo, one of the first African Elephants to live in captivity. Although it seems to rely on rather dubious source material (and since so much time has passed no one can be interviewed regarding the events) that author has put together a short intriguing (and of course tragic) account of the captive life of an animal that managed to capture the hearts and minds of the public of two nations.
Apr 10, 2008 Nicole rated it really liked it
I read an excerpt from this book a while back and it sounded very interesting, so this seemed like a good follow-up book to "Water for Elephants" and I certainly can't complain about the elephant not getting enough air time in this one! :-) It was very interesting, though so sad too. It reminds me why I can't stand going to the circus. :-/
Mar 12, 2008 Megan rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I'm not sure what I was expecting of this book - I realize you can't interview an elephant and then reveal his thoughts and feelings in a true biography - but I was disappointed in how dryly and clinically this read. It seemed to be more about the people surrounding Jumbo and the politics of animal husbandry than about Jumbo himself.
Dec 21, 2007 Jesse rated it really liked it
Probably the best biography of an elephant I've read since "Babar," though I might be forgetting one or two. Being British, Chambers tells it pretty dryly, resisting the urge to make Jumbo a metaphor for Victorian England and/or PT Barnum-era America, and pretty much avoids all irrelevant tangents. Probably for the best, but I could've gone for more detail.
Mar 26, 2008 JayBee rated it liked it
This was worth the read for sure... It was an interesting story of Jumbo, the circus elephant. I am not a big fan of the circus and this was good to read from the history of the circus perspective. My home town in Connecticut has Barnum, Bailey and Jumbo as proud heritage painted on the side of a town building. Good book.
Apr 26, 2010 Linda rated it it was ok
Jumbo This being the true story of the greatest elephant in the world. by Paul Chambers.
Story of how the famous Jumbo of Barnum and Baily Circus fame was captured, sold to England, came across the ocean and finally his dreadful death by a freight train. I have a fascination with elephants so I finished it, but it was not a page turner. 2 stars
Fraser Sherman
Dec 24, 2014 Fraser Sherman rated it liked it
Shelves: history
3.5 stars. A good history of the legendary elephant whose name added a word for "really really huge" to the English language. Chambers follows Jumbo from his capture in Africa through his years at the London Zoo (where he was more dangerous and belligerent than most zoo-goers realized) and his later time as the star of Barnum & Bailey's Circus. A minor topic, but a good story.
Jun 23, 2008 Andrea rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
A fascinating subject that I'd never really thought about before. I wasn't terribly thrilled with the author's writing style - a little too journalistic for my tastes - but he did manage to convey a good sense of the story and the times.
Diana Raabe
Jan 06, 2016 Diana Raabe rated it liked it
This is a well-done basic history of Jumbo's life. It tracks the elephant's locale, reception and love for one trainer in particular. Chambers does add to the general conversation about animal welfare, but does not go into much detail.

Apr 29, 2008 Chris rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This was surprisingly entertaining. I love elephants, but I didn't know that I would really care about an elephant that's been dead since the late 1800s.

Worth a read, the author does a good job of capturing the different personalities of all those who had an impact on Jumbo's life.
PennsyLady (Bev)
Jan 13, 2015 PennsyLady (Bev) rated it really liked it
3.5 ★

First US edition, copyright 2008 finished 5/8/2013 3.5 ★

well written using new archival material
*Victorian sensation*
London America and PT Barnum (The Greatest Show On Earth)

some parts were very difficult to read.
my first elephant book and probably my last......
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“Were we to be engaged in a war . . we should become absolutely destitute of elephants. . .What would our children do without elephants to amuse them? What would the sick do without the sight of elephants to invigorate them?” 1 likes
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