The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum
By Candace Fleming
Published 2009 by Schwartz & Wade
Step right up and hear the all-true story of Phineas T. Barnum, one of the greatest showmen and swindlers to have ever walked this earth!
I picked this up over the summer - I was in the mood for something different and this definitely fit the bill. Plus, I knew it'd be a quick read, perfect for rejuvenating me at the end of summer when all-over fatigue began to set in. This book was basically everything I wanted it to be - quick, refreshing, and interesting. As I've mentioned before, I love reading juvenile non-fiction. It takes up less of my time and I still feel like I've learned a lot from reading it. I particularly enjoy reading biographies - they hit all the most interesting bits of someone's life without getting weighed down by a lot of pomp and circumstance that peppers adult biographies.
I didn't know terribly much about Barnum prior to reading this - I visited an exhibit at an art museum that focused on circus art, plus I'd read some historical fiction that took place in Barnum's American Museum, so I knew a bit. I really enjoyed learning more about him while reading this book. It covers his childhood and then moves into the start of his career and his growing success. Asides are given to some of the most famous residents of his museum and the whole thing is strewn with eye-catching photos. I think the graphic layout of this book is particularly well-done - it feels like a circus event. The back matter is well-done, also. I think this is a great book to prove how well-written and engaging non-fiction can be.