By Gary Susman
Updated February 29, 2008 at 05:00 AM EST

Paul Chambers’ biography, Jumbo, is the stuff of an E! True Hollywood Story — impoverished childhood, chance discovery, worldwide fame, self-serving managers and hangers-on, alcohol, broken marriage, tragic early death, and posthumous exploitation — except that the subject happens to be an elephant. Chambers can’t really explain why Jumbo became the most famous elephant ever (or why, more than a century after his death, his name remains a synonym for plus-size), but he does a remarkable job recreating his world, bringing to life his keepers (particularly wily showman P.T. Barnum), and imagining how his short, sad life must have been. B+