Coral Bachen's Reviews > The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum

The Great and Only Barnum by Candace Fleming
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's review
Feb 27, 2012

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 you do!). Did you know that the saying “There’s a sucker born every minute,” which people always credit Barnum for, wasn’t actually said by him? He would never call his customers suckers! Forget “Linsanity”, Jenny Lind, aka the Swedish Nightengale gets a shout out for being one of the first real celebrities and instilling “Lindomania” everywhere! Of course, there is an even balance between Barnum’s bio and the circus business (he actually began in museums…).

I kind of geeked out with this book and decided that I’m going to the circus next time it’s in town. But in all honesty, I do think this book did justice in telling Barnum’s tale and giving more insight to young readers who wouldn’t have otherwise known. Let’s face it, we don’t teach much about the circus in schools. That said, the light bulb turned on when I was reading this in a “teacher” perspective. I think this book is great to incorporate biography as a genre. It can function as a primary text for a student’s research paper. It doesn’t have to be used in its entirety, either. Excerpts can be used for testing, as this is a non-fiction work. Not to mention, it’s COOL!

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