cover image Jumbo: This Being the True Story of the Greatest Elephant in the World

Jumbo: This Being the True Story of the Greatest Elephant in the World

Paul Chambers, . . Steerforth, $23.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-58642-141-0

British author Chambers (A Sheltered Life: The Unexpected History of the Tortoise) tells the colorful story of a magnificent animal. Captured in Africa in 1862, the young elephant, later called Jumbo, languished in Paris’s Jardin des Plantes until 1865, when he was bought by the London Zoo. Under the care of a devoted keeper, Matthew Scott, the ailing elephant became the world’s largest and the zoo’s greatest attraction. In 1882, American circus magnate Phineas T. Barnum bought Jumbo, who became the star of the “Greatest Show on Earth” but died tragically in 1885, when he was hit by a freight train while on tour with the circus in Canada. Chambers highlights the personalities of the major players in the tale: Scott, a reclusive, irascible man at ease with animals but not with people; Abraham Bartlett, the superintendent of the London Zoo, who longed to be rid of the irksome keeper and his often troublesome elephant; Barnum, the flamboyant showman; and Jumbo himself, moody and subject to displays of temper, but gentle with thousands of children who rode on his back. Chambers’s account of the legendary elephant—whose name has become synonymous with large objects—is touching and entertaining. Illus. (Mar. 4)