Sunday, March 29, 2015

Big Top Burning

Image result for big top burning

Big Top Burning: The True Story of an Arsonist, a Missing Girl, and the Greatest Show on Earth

Laura A. Woollett

Quantitative Reading Level: 

 For Grades 5 - 8

Qualitative Reading Analysis:

The text structure of the book is hard to evaluate because I read an eBook ARC from NetGalley.  From what I could see it looked slightly complex but nothing too difficult for the intended audience.

The language features were moderately complex.  This mostly pertains to the investigation aspects of the book.

The purpose of the book is clear.

There is some need for a bit of background knowledge - maybe into the 1940s time period and maybe a little about investigations and how they work - dental evidence, etc.

I would say this book has some moderate demands but for the age group it is nothing too difficult.  The length of the book and the use of photographs and diagrams is a plus. 

This was a really interesting account of an event I had never heard of before.  The burning of a Big Top of the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Curcus in Hartford, CT in the 1940s.  The book gave information about events leading up to the disaster, the events of the day, an accounting of the recovery and identification of bodies, and then a more detailed account of the two mysteries that still surround the event.  One of the mysteries involves how the fire started.  Originally it was believed to be an accidental cigarette or match but evidence now points to arson.  There is a suspect in the arson but he has since passed away.  Interestingly enough the suspect was originally from Portland, ME.  Score 1 for a local connection.  The other mystery surrounds one of the girls who died.  For a long time there was an unclaimed body but it was not believed to be her.  This has changed but uncertainty still remains.
Content Area: 

Social Studies / Language Arts
Curriculum Suggestions:

This would pair well with any discussions about disasters and their effects in legislation, etc.  It would also fit in with any other crime scene books - how things are investigated, even after a long time.

Personal Thoughts:

 I thought this was a really interesting book.  I liked the length and the fact that the author was able to incorporate a good amount of the history, the evidence, and the continuing debate over the events.  I also like the local connection to the potential arsonist and Portland, Maine.

High Interest Annotation: 

This event was called "The Day the Clowns Cried".  Find out why and learn about the mysteries that still surround this tragic event.

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