Tom Thumb: The Remarkable True Story of a Man in Miniature

George Sullivan, Clarion, $20 (208p) ISBN 978-0-547-18203-2
This engaging biography centers on "the nation's first celebrity," legendary dwarf Charles Stratton (aka General Tom Thumb), as well as showman P.T. Barnum, who created his persona. Following high-profile exhibition flops like the "Fejee Mermaid," Barnum found redemption through four-year-old Stratton, who was only two feet tall yet perfectly proportional. His mother, after initial objections, traveled to New York with her son, where Barnum encouraged him to act older and taught him to perform. Engrossing b&w photographs and illustrations convey Stratton's rising affluence and celebrity: his wedding to another performing dwarf, Lavinia Warren, attracted crowds, and the couple's notoriety spread as far as India and Australia. Sullivan (Berenice Abbott, Photographer) sensitively portrays Stratton's personal identity struggles ("I love to watch children play," he once remarked. "I never had much childhood") and addresses Stratton's unfulfilled desire to become a more versatile actor. While Sullivan touches on the subject of exploitation and the limited understanding of dwarfism in Stratton's era, his subject emerges not as a victim but as an individual whose talents earned him the public's admiration and a place in history. Ages 10–14. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/17/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
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Compact Disc - 978-1-935430-90-2
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