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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This fact-filled, well-researched nonfiction account of impresario P. T. Barnum's celebrated colossal elephant proves somewhat unsatisfying. Blumberg's ( Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun ) story takes the reader from Jumbo's humble beginnings as a tiny, neglected creature in a Paris zoo through his acquisition by London's Royal Zoological Gardens and his adoring relationship with keeper Matthew Scott to his purchase by Barnum for his Greatest Show on Earth. Although Blumberg's prose presents entertaining information about the pachyderm's size, care and celebrity, the book lacks an overall narrative arc, and ends rather arbitrarily. (Only in an afterword do we learn of Jumbo's dramatic death in the path of an oncoming freight train.) Ultimately, due to the welter of material here, the book reads like a well-written but slightly pedantic social-studies text. Hunt's ( The Mapmaker's Daughter ) outsized watercolors expressively capture both Jumbo's gargantuan scale and the Victorian world around him as the elephant is ogled by zoogoers and tended by his devoted keeper. Ages 5-10. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Beverly Kobrin
feet tall, 18-feet round, and 14,000-pounds heavy elephant for his "Greatest Show On Earth." Getting it from the London Zoo to the United States, however, was more difficult than Mr. Barnum had imagined. How Jumbo and his caretaker-companion, Matthew Scott, joined the circus is entrancingly told in Rhoda Blumberg's biography of the eponymous beast. As true an account as she could tell, Ms. Blumberg notes, in light of the hype with which Barnum surrounded the gigantic animal. Jonathan Hunt's illustrations of the middle-of-the-19th-century era in which the events took place, seem perfect.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-- This well-researched, beautifully illustrated picture book tells how the 19th-century elephant, Jumbo, `` . . . the largest animal in captivity . . . ,'' came to the U. S. as part of P. T. Barnum's circus. Carefully incorporating historical fact into her narrative, Blumberg captures the sense of wonder and ballyhoo that surrounded the world's most famous beast. The text also conveys a sense of the special relationship between Jumbo and his loyal keeper, Matthew Scott. An ``Author's Note'' provides additional background details. Full-color illustrations, including many double-page spreads, make this look at a unique social phenomenon an excellent choice for classroom read-alouds. --Barbara B. Murphy, Shaler Area School District Libraries, Pittsburgh
Hazel Rochman
Jumbo was a great African elephant whose name has become our word for "huge", but he started out as a scrawny outsider. It was his keeper, Matthew Scott, himself a lonely bachelor, who loved Jumbo, nurtured him, and fed him until he grew into "the largest animal in captivity"--the star attraction, first, at the London Zoo in Victorian England, and then at Barnum's Circus in nineteenth-century America. Blumberg is one of our best nonfiction storytellers, and in this dramatic picture book she and artist Hunt evoke the period, the hype of public appearance, and also the personal affection between Jumbo and his keeper. The water color illustrations, which exhibit extraordinary depth and detail, vary from poster-style art to realistic views of landscape and people; some of the best scenes juxtapose Victorian ladies and gentlemen and the gigantic animal with his trunk and tusks and great flapping ears. Unfortunately, the book ends abruptly. In a fine afterword Blumberg tell us quietly of how the elephant was killed by a train and how his keeper faded away and died in an almshouse. That would have been a hard scene to show, and the final painting of Jumbo and Scott splashing in a stream together is delightful--but you turn the page expecting the story to continue.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780027116830
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/15/1992
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 5 - 10 Years

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