As a determined and innovative young man, Bailey’s clout quickly grew in the circus world. In 1880, the 70-year-old Barnum, a competitor of Bailey’s in the circus world, wanted to buy a newborn elephant from Bailey’s establishment–a purchase that kick-started their history-making partnership. To tell Bailey’s story, Adams intersperses traditional narratives with eye-catching graphics and remarkable circus facts and terms: a tattooed man is known as a “picture gallery,” and the circus elephant required 200 pounds of hay a day. Full pages of colorful, nostalgic circus folklore showing magnificent animals and performers will hold the interest of younger readers and spark their imagination–like the posters for “Evetta, The Only Lady Clown” and a reproduction of an original Barnum & Bailey admission ticket.
While animal-oriented circuses have gotten a bad rap in recent years, this upbeat stroll down memory lane recalls the curiosity and intrigue of a time when gathering under the big top to see musical donkeys and Jumbo the elephant was truly a novel experience. Adams’s snappy prose will be easy for young readers to follow and understand as they become acquainted with Bailey–along with the exhilaration and adventure of being swept up into the golden age of the circus.
Takeaway:With sharp prose and colorful images, Adams does justice to the exciting life of James Bailey, co-founder of the Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Great for fans of: Jen Bryant’s Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille, Deborah Heiligman’s Vincent and Theo.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: B+