I’m sorry I have taken a few days off from the review promise I made a back on Friday. I had a Sunday off with the family and Monday was devoted to grading papers until my eyes bled…ah the life of a teacher.
So tonight I tackle the nonfiction tale of the showman PT Barnum in The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum by Candace Fleming.
I have made a conscious effort over the last year and a half to read more nonfiction titles. I think this is book 10 in the nonfiction ranks, so I am still a fiction junkie. The books always seems to end up being a biography for some reason. I dove in to Sid Fleichman’s bios of Houdini and Mark Twain and loved them both. So when a coworker of mine was seen carrying the Barnum book around I put it on the list.
I was surprised right off the bat with the time frame of PT Barnum’s life. In my warped history he lived in the 1900s not the 1800s.
Phineas Taylor Barnum was born on the fifth of July, he claimed he did not want to upstage the birthday of the USA, so he waited a day, in Bethel, Connecticut. His life was one of fun and hard work. This book takes you through his entire life from his youth in the small towns of Connecticut to his move to the big city of New York. You will read about his many triumphs and his formidable downs.
My favorite story deals with his New York Museum which was hugely popular and often over flowing with people. He first hired the worst brass band he could find to play outside, in hopes that the ruckus would drive paying customers inside. Once inside he got them to buy a souvenir guide to help them through the museum’s many chambers. His big problem was that people loved the museum exhibits so much they didn’t want to leave. He solved this problem in a brilliant and ingenious way. He had a huge sign painted with the words “To the Egress.” Simple museum goers thought that the egress must be another great exhibit and found themselves exited to the street. That goes to show you how important reading and vocabulary building can be!
His life continued to amaze and delight me. Barnum was rich, but did his part for the betterment of the world around him. He did make his millions by tricking people into paying to see “mermaids” and the like, but he was hugely popular.
I really recommend that you give your fiction diet a rest and pick up The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum by Candace Fleming. You will be happy you did!
ps… PT Barnmun is often credited with the quote, “A sucker is born every day.” I never read this in his bio and after a little research on the net found that he probably never said this. He may have thought it, but never said it out loud.
So don’t be a sucker and read about this fascinating man.