Novel: Tom Thumb: The Remarkable True Story of a Man in Miniature
Author: George Sullivan
Target Audience: 5th-9th grade
Publication Year: 2011
Setting: Primarily in New York and the USA; 19th century (esp. 1840s-1890s)
A Favorite Quote: “At five, Tom was drinking wine with his meals. At seven, he smoked cigars. By nine, he chewed tobacco. He never had a day of school.”
My One Sentence Summary: Charles Stratton started his career as a performer just before his fifth birthday and, with the help of P.T. Barnum, Stratton soon became the international celebrity known as General Tom Thumb.
What I loved about this book: Before Kate and William and before Charles and Diana…Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren threw the royal wedding of the century, sparking a rage of copycat make believe “fairy weddings” with children posing as bride and groom. In the real world, both Tom Thumb and his bride were under three feet tall. Tom and Lavinia made a living as performers, working largely in conjunction with P.T. Barnum and his American Museum. The book covers a fascinating time in history, interweaving a biography of P.T. Barnum with that of Tom Thumb, portraying Tom with a great deal of dignity and compassion.
Major themes: Questions regarding exploitation in the entertainment industry, both in the 19th century and today
Who should read this book: This is a good book for readers who enjoy nonfiction and biography. It’s written in a clean, polished, straightforward style. Given the exploitation of the so-called “human curiosities” in Barnum’s American Museum, the book is probably a better fit for slightly older children and teens.