Friday, January 18, 2013

The Giant and How He Humbugged America

by Jim Murphy
Scholastic | 2012
Get it here!
Reviewed from galleys.

Murphy is back again, with yet another awesome nonfiction entry for kids. Murphy's excellent books include Fire, Blizzard, Truce, and The American Plague (a Newbery Honor book). To me, the most remarkable thing, amongst many remarkable things, that Murphy does is that he somehow makes intimate objects into main characters. A blizzard, a war, or a fire almost take personalities of their own as Murphy recounts the events he chooses to research and present in his books.

This book is the same. The 10-foot-long stone-cast man found buried on a farm in Cardiff, New York in 1869 becomes as much a character in Murphy's narrative as does the men who discover it. This bizarre finding had the whole country buzzing and wondering about the origins of the man. Using narrative supplemented by historical photos, advertisements, and drawings, Murphy leads the reader through the discoveries--of the giant and of the fact that it turns out to be a colossal hoax.

This is just the kind of book a kid interested in practical jokes or weird oddities is looking for. Appended with short vignettes about other famous hoaxes, an author's note about research, source notes, a bibliography, photo sources, and an index, it's also just right for the Common Core. With a narrative, a cast of characters, history, geography, and some research methodology thrown in, it's a cross-discipline lesson come to life. Murphy has proven once again that nonfiction need not be boring--in fact, it's some of the most exciting stuff out there!

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