Books

Life was a circus for Barnum & Bailey partner

“If PT Barnum was the famous face of the circus, James Anthony Bailey was the heart.” The lesser-known partner in the Greatest Show on Earth is given his due in “James A. Bailey: The Genius Behind the Barnum & Bailey Circus,” an illustrated biography for middle readers by Gloria G. Adams.

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Bailey was a Detroit orphan named Jimmy McGinnis who ran away from his sister’s harsh treatment to a life of itinerant labor. When he was 13, two months after the beginning of the Civil War, he signed on with a traveling circus. The circus agent treated Jimmy so kindly that he took his name.

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Though PT Barnum was the “greatest showman,” Bailey was the organization man, known for his generosity and honesty.

The book features reproductions of full-colored circus posters promoting high-wire acts, performing geese and, of course, Jumbo the elephant. Sidebars provide curious circus terms: “Alfalfa” is paper money; “screamers” are marching tunes.

“James A. Bailey” (48 pages, hardcover) costs $21.95 from Slanted Ink and is recommended for readers 9-12. Gloria G. Adams also is the author of “Who Sees You at the Zoo?” and “Ah-Choo!” A former children’s librarian, she lives in Stow.

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