Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Giant and How He Humbugged America

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Here at Teach Mentor Texts we are always looking for more ways to support teachers! We've found that teachers seem to be constantly on the lookout for great nonfiction. We know we are! To help with this undying quest for outstanding non-fiction, we are excited to participate in Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and The Nonfiction Detectives. Every Wednesday, you'll find a non-fiction review here - although it may not always be a picture book review. Please visit Kid Lit Frenzy to see what non-fiction others have to share, too.

Title: The Giant and How He Humbugged America 
Author: Jim Murphy    
Publisher: Scholastic Press 
Publication Date: October, 2012 
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction/Oversized Novel 
GoodReads Summary: Two-time Newbery Honor Book author has written an amazing account of one of America's most famous hoaxes!

When a 10-foot tall purported "petrified man" is unearthed from a backyard in upstate New York in 1869, the discovery immediately turns into a spectacle of epic proportions. News of the giant spreads like wildfire, and well over a thousand people come to view him in the first five days alone!

Everyone has their own idea of his true origin: Is he an ancient member of the local Onandaga Indian tribe? Is he a biblical giant like Goliath? Soon the interests of world-renowned scientists and people from around the globe are piqued as arguments flare over who he is, where he came from, and if he is real--or just a hoax.
In a riveting account of how the Cardiff Giant mystery snowballed into one of America’s biggest money-making spectacles--and scams--Jim Murphy masterfully explores the power of 19th-century media and the unexpected ripple effect that a single corrupt mastermind can produce when given a stage.  
What I Think: I'm so fascinated with how people act and what causes people to act in certain ways. The story of the Cardiff Giant certainly makes me think about the extent to which people will go when they are desperate. It also makes me wonder what puts someone in such a position to believe that pulling such a hoax makes sense and is worth it despite the utter trickery and that people will be taken advantage of. While I don't believe it was right, people definitely got creative and took matters into their own hands to make things happen despite many times it being at the expense of others.
     As I read this book, I couldn't stop thinking about The Great and Only Barnum by Candace Fleming. I was amazed and appalled and fascinated by P.T. Barnum and his life and career. He truly was larger than life and earned his monicker of being the great and only. But his work was based on manipulating and tricking the public. I also was reminded of The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan and even Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran. While these are considered to be more adult books, they still share how people respond and react in order to do what they need to do to survive and look out for themselves.
    I think this book has great potential for connecting text with other texts and gaining insight into how the world was different 150 years ago. It's interesting to think how vastly society has changed and to recognize how so much of what is in this book wouldn't be possible today for many reasons and also the implications of that.
Read Together: Grades 6 - 12 
Read Alone: Grades 7 - 12 
Read With: The Great and Only Barnum by Candace Fleming, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran 
Snatch of Text: "The era (which came to be known as the Gilded Age) was also notorious for its unchecked greed, the ostentatious display of wealth by the rich, and political corruption. Ordinary people hungered for a simpler, less commercial, and what they saw as a more honest time, and began to criticize anyone who seemed avaricious or underhanded." p. 86
Mentor Text For: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Expository, Persuasive 
Writing Prompts: Choose a position in regards to whether you believe it was acceptable for Hull and others to pull of the Cardiff Giant hoax. Were they justified in some way or do you believe it was uncalled for? What do you recognize about our current society as you compare it to life in the late 1800's? 
Topics Covered: Responsibility, Honesty, Trustworthiness, Dishonesty, Fraud, Hoax
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