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The Giant and How He Humbugged America (edition 2012)

by Jim Murphy

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626188,983 (4)None
Member:catherinea
Title:The Giant and How He Humbugged America
Authors:Jim Murphy
Info:Scholastic Press (2012), Hardcover, 112 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:**1/2
Tags:RICBA 2012, non-fiction, upstate New York, 1869, hoax, fraud, Cardiff Giant, William

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The Giant and How He Humbugged America by Jim Murphy

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Grades 5 - 8

A fascinating look at how George Hull spearheaded a huge hoax on Americans when a 10 foot 4 inch "petrified man" was dug up in 1869 at a New York farm. Jim Murphy includes abundant copies of newspaper articles, carnival flyers, and photographs as he takes readers on the journey from the "discovery" of this ancient man to the unraveling of the hoax. Give this to readers who are convinced that they don't like nonfiction-- the author's conversational tone and the subject matter will win them over. Murphy notes that his research into this famous hoax was inspired by the 2008 Bernie Madoff scandal, and includes a section on other famous hoaxes through the years.
( )
  KimJD | Apr 8, 2013 |
A great story about a bodacious 19th century hoax in upstate New York involving several fascinating characters, including that greatest of all hoaxsters P.T. Barnum. Murphy shows how people will talk themselves into believing anything when they want to. A great companion to Candance Fleming's The Great and Only Barnum. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
This fascinating, little-known piece of American history is explored in detail in Jim Murphy's new book, accompanied by great photographs and memorabilia from the time. For another very interesting but obscure bit of history, try The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919 by Deborah Kops. ( )
  DeweyEver | Feb 11, 2013 |
How big can a story about a Giant get? That is the question that is at the center of Jim Murphy's book. The author describes to readers a little known performance that entertained millions during The Civil War Era. This performance was a hoax that fooled those millions into believing a statue was actually petrified human remains of a giant. Sounds ridiculous right? Well that's exactly what keeps readers interested.

Murphy's dramatic style of writing brings otherwise mundane details to the forefront of his book. With every chapter, Murphy details the story of The Cardiff Giant hoax, while keeping as true to the story as possible. There are moments where Murphy ad-libs some dialogue to make the story more dramatic, but I found that to be the charm of the book. It's as if a ringmaster was constantly wrangling the audience's attention and leading it to the next performance or chapter.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and although it is geared towards lower grade students, I think it can certainlt be used in an upper grade classroom. The style of writing and historical implications of the hoax are interesting points to examine. I would use this book to examine these concepts in depth, but also to show students a different type of nonfiction work. As I see it, everyone enjoys a good show, and Murphy is a gracious master of ceremonies. ( )
  dareone32988 | Oct 12, 2012 |
The Giant is a story of how one man cooked up a scheme to humbug an entire nation.

By his own account, Jim Murphy originally toyed with the idea of telling the tale of the Bernie Madoff investment scandal, but decided that not enough time has passed to interpret the scandal objectively and completely. How then to tell a true and cautionary story of greed, excess, and gullibility? Why via the Cardiff Giant, of course! The Giant hoax began in earnest on a morning in October, 1869, on "Stub" Newell's farm in the small New York hamlet of Cardiff, when workers digging a well uncovered a stone body. Was it a petrified man, an ancient statue, proof of biblical giants? Scientists, reporters, scholars and average citizens flocked to Cardiff in droves to decide for themselves.

Demand was so great to see the statue while it was still in its hastily constructed home in upstate New York,

"that the New York Central Railroad had trains stop for ten minutes near the hall so riders could run in for a quick view.”

Eventually, the statue was moved in a specially-constructed wagon and toured the country. Accounts of the Cardiff Giant appeared in newspapers throughout America. Learned men debated competing theories about the giant's origin.

They need not have debated. The truth of the giant's origin was already known, but known only to Stub Newell and his several accomplices. It was a steadily growing hoax of gigantic proportions.

It is difficult today to understand the immensity of the "giant" hoax of 1869, but to place it in perspective, consider these numbers. The US Census of 1870, (one year after the "giant" was first "found"), lists the population of the United States at just over 38 million. According to accounts in the book, an estimated six million people paid to view the famous Cardiff Giant, about one sixth of the entire population of the United States! Add in visitors to the several "fake" giants that appeared later, and the number is likely even higher. It is estimated that the architect of the scheme made the equivalent of nearly a quarter million dollars in today's money; and he owned only an "interest" in the Cardiff Giant.

So shady and complex were the financial machinations and deals involved with this deception, that "The Cast of Characters" which begins the book numbers sixty-six, and is peppered with names that will be familiar to many, including P.T. Barnum and "Boss" Tweed. Most of the cast were unaware that theirs were just bit parts in a monumental drama. In the end, fortunes were made and lost, lives were enriched and ruined, and in one tragic instance, a life was taken. Jim Murphy takes the reader deftly through the biggest swindle of its time.

Interestingly, some of the repercussions from the great hoax were beneficial - the birth of new professional associations including the American Medical Association, peer-reviewed journals, graduate programs to better train experts in various fields, and a reforming spirit in everyday Americans.

Told in twelve chapters from "The Discovery" to "The Final Resting Place," The Giant is a fascinating look at many aspects of history through the lens of one "giant" swindle. Entertaining and impossible to put down, readers will be both impressed and apalled by the complex manuevers of the hoax's mastermind. (No spoilers here, you'll have to read it to find his identity.) A large number of period photos, posters and handbills are included, adding much to the story.

Also included are meticulous Source Notes, a Selected Bibliography, and a summary of other famous hoaxes. The Index and Photo Credits were not included in my Advance Reader Copy, but will be in the final version, due on shelves in October, 2012.

With many schools moving to a national core curriculum with a heavy focus on informational texts, The Giant should be on the "must buy" list of school media specialists. What better way to teach critical thinking than to pore through the anatomy of one of America's most famous hoaxes!

more on The Giant @ http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-giant-and-how-he-humbugged-americ... ( )
  shelf-employed | Sep 10, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0439691842, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:56 -0400)

A description of the Cardiff Giant mystery in which a man in upstate New York buried a ten-foot-tall, petrified model of a man, which was discovered by well diggers a year later, and set into motion a money-making spectacle.

(summary from another edition)

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