Monday, November 9, 2009

The Great and Only Barnum by Candace Fleming

The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum 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 descriptive language to keep it from being dry. Plenty of illustrations and photographs fill the pages, but not too many to take away from the words. The sidebars were distracting to me. It may just be a personal thing, but I hate to stop reading the text or finding a stopping point in the main text to go back and read the side bar. It takes me out of the story and I have to settle back in. I realize why they are there and they do have relevant and interesting information, though. The story is well-told, with plenty of facts used, but the text flows smoothly. The reader is caught up in the story of Barnum's life, rather than seeing the text as a list of facts tied together.

There's plenty to like about The Great and Only Barnum and I know I'll be recommending it a lot this year. I give it a B, Recommended.

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