cover image Jumbo


Rhoda Blumberg. Bradbury Press, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-02-711683-0

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.)