In honor of Nonfiction Monday I'd like to recommend THE GREAT AND ONLY BARNUM: THE TREMENDOUS, STUPENDOUS LIFE OF SHOWMAN P.T. BARNUM, by Candace Fleming. Right off the bat, the reader will be drawn to the circus theme in the design of this book. Ray Fenwick announces each chapter with period style illustrations, and Fleming delivers with bright prose, fun facts, and dozens of photographs, posters, playbills, and etchings to throw a spotlight on fascinating aspects of Barnum's life.
A biographer can begin a person's story in a number of ways, most commonly starting at the very beginning. But Fleming introduces Barnum later in life when his flim flam and bluster had been diminished by illness and age. Through the eyes of a reporter who came to interview Barnum, Fleming is able to answer the questions a young, probably non-circus-savy reader has, namely who was this man and what was it about Barnum that endeared him to so many even to this day.
I loved the sidebars that paint a picture of life in 19th century America, gave the secret recipe for Mr. Proler's Bear's Grease (made sans bear) and told of one of the few jokes played on the biggest jokster of them all.
Fleming's book would be the perfect choice for a biography assignment especially for boys who will like the bizarre pictures of some of Barnum's stars and admire a man who made fun a career.