Jumbo: the most famous elephant who ever lived by Alexandra Stewart and Emily Sutton


Who knew when I was a young nipper thinking I was clever asking for a jumbo battered sausage, that it was linked to the world’s most famous elephant ever?  Alexandra Stewart follows up her first non-fiction book, Everest: The Story of Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay, with this excellent outing.

Now I’m not going to lie, historical non-fiction picturebooks have became my thing lately.  I honestly think we’re in a golden age, and this book adds to the current brilliance out there.  With the quirky subject matter, well known figures such as P.T. Barnum and the facts littered throughout, it is exactly the type of book that grabs my attention.


What the author does so well is share the ‘human’ side of Jumbo.  From his capture and ordeal traveling to Europe, rejection from Paris to settling at London Zoo, Alexandra Stewart makes you care for him.  An extra layer is added through the details of the relationship that develops between Jumbo, and his handler, Matthew Scott.  It was clear that both cared for each other immensely.

The illustrations are fabulous!  I’ve been a fan of Emily Sutton since I came across her work in One Christmas Wish and it is perfectly suited here.  The traditional artwork fits so well with the Victorian era that Jumbo graced.


Now for the teacher bit.  This book would be great to use alongside learning about the Victorians as it covers the same time period and opens a window about the culture of the time.  How circus acts, traveling shows and vast zoos were created to entertain the public in a time before TV or cinema will be eye-opening to the children.  Timelines, in particular, could be explored as not only does it chart the life of Jumbo, it also outlines dates for the birth of the zoo as a concept.  On top of this, it outlines the differences between Asian and African elephants – I certainly learnt something new!




An elephant never forgets, and we should never forget Jumbo – a cracking read.

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