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Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science Paperback


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 6
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; None edition (November 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618494782
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618494781
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.5 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Science writer John Fleischman uses a clipped, engaging expository style to tell the incredible story of the railroad worker who, in 1848, survived the piercing blast of a 13-pound iron rod as it entered below his cheekbone and exited the front of his skull in Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story about Brain Science. Photographs, glossary, a resource listing and index lend this textbook case the same sense of immediacy as do the words.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up-The fascinating story of the construction foreman who survived for 10 years after a 13-pound iron rod shot through his brain. Fleischman relates Gage's "horrible accident" and the subsequent events in the present tense, giving immediacy to the text. He avoids sensationalizing by letting the events themselves carry the impact. The straightforward description of Gage calmly chatting on a porch 30 minutes after the accident, for example, comes across as horrifying and amazing. The author presents scientific background in a conversational style and jumps enthusiastically into such related topics as phrenology, 19th-century medical practices, and the history of microbiology. He shows how Gage's misfortune actually played an intriguing and important role in the development of our knowledge of the brain. The present-tense narrative may cause occasional confusion, since it spans several time periods and dates are not always immediately apparent from the text. Illustrations include historical photographs; one showing the iron bar posed dramatically next to Gage's skull is particularly impressive. Other photos and diagrams help explain the workings of the brain. The work of Gage expert Malcolm Macmillan, cited in the list of resources, seems the likely main source for the quotes and details of Gage's life, but this is not clearly spelled out in the text or appendixes. Like Penny Colman's Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts (Holt, 1997) and James M. Deem's Bodies from the Bog (Houghton, 1998), Phineas Gage brings a scientific viewpoint to a topic that will be delightfully gruesome to many readers.
Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

John Fleischman writes science for the American Society for Cell Biology, books for kids and others, and articles for the "Harvard Health Letter" and "Air & Space Smithsonian." He was a science writer at Harvard Medical School, a science broadcaster at Boston's WGBH (public radio), and a senior editor for "Yankee" and "Ohio" magazines.

Fleischman's latest non-fiction book for older children is "Black & White Airmen: Their True History," published in 2007 by Houghton-Mifflin Children's Books of Boston. Named a 2008 "Orbis Pictus Honor Book for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children" by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), "Airmen" also won the 2008 Carter G. Woodson Middle Level Book Award from the National Council for the Social Studies. Says Fleischman, "'Black & White Airmen' is about flying, WWII, segregation, and friendship. And it has a happy ending."

His first non-fiction book for older kids, "Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science," was an American Library Association "Notable Children's Book" and "Best Book for Young Adults" in 2003. It was also named an "Orbis Pictus Honor Book" by the NCTE in 2003. The paperback was picked for a list of "2007 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults" at the ALA winter meeting. Fleischman was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006 to work on his third nonfiction book for older kids about animals that have won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. (You thought only people won them?)

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 43 customer reviews
I would recommend this book for 6th grade and up.
floridaminnie
I really feel for Phineas Gage after reading his story--and I am completely amazed at how he survived his accident.
Anne-Marie G
The text is well written, just more simple than I am used to reading.
K. L Sadler

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By K. L Sadler VINE VOICE on October 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well, that will teach me not to read the entire review of a book before sending for it! Not that I'm complaining about the book...I thought it was for adults. It's not really, though I can see using it for reading and science literacy for deaf adults.
This is a great book. The explanations concerning what happened to Mr. Gage, and the science behind his medical recovery and subsequent personality problems is fairly well covered. There is a great glossary in the back with more information concerning terminology used in 'brain science' such as abscess and neurotransmitters that can be used as a jumping point for students to do their own research into areas that interest them, whether on the Internet or in libraries.
I kind of skimmed through the text. Most of it was stuff I've had over exposure to. The text is well written, just more simple than I am used to reading. Fleischman writes very tongue-in-cheek (come to think of it, Gage couldn't do that for a while on one side!). I appreciate Fleischman's humor, and I am sure most teachers and students will find it refreshing from boring textbooks written by professors or publishing houses. The science is correct in this book, which I am finding is often NOT the case in textbooks...so maybe teachers should stop using textbooks and use books such as this, journals and the Internet!
My favorite part of this book, of course, are the pictures, the MRI scans, the reconstitution of his brain within his skull using modern techniques. Very fun to see all this together. Gage is learned about in every neuroscience class I had from an undergrad to graduate level.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a children's librarian, I do a lot of booktalks in area schools. In a typical booktalk I will stand up with a pile of books at my side and try by any means necessary to get kids interested in reading. Such an effort can cause a librarian a fair amount of strain and sometimes we'll stoop mighty low to get children hooked. Enter "Phineas Gage". By and large, non-fiction titles are the hardest ones to sell to kids. You tell a ten-year-old that you have a story about a boy who finds a mysterious dragon's egg and you'll probably have a convert before you've uttered so much as ten sentences. But if you hold in your hot little hand an item that contains actual FACTS.... usually you're up a crik. Not in the case of Phineas. This book is so chock full of blood, splattered brains, busted skulls, and other goopy beginnings that your intended audience, whatever the age, will be hanging on your every word. For the parent that wants their child to someday become a high priced neurologist, I highly suggest that you give them a little taste of "Phineas Gage" for a starter.

Now imagine that you are Mr. Gage himself. The year is 1848 and you're just an average railroad construction foreman. Your job consists of blasting rock out of the way of the construction, allowing further tracks to be laid. You're good at your job, and you've a custom-made tamping iron (thirteen-pound rod with a pointed end) to help you out. Then, on September 13, 1848, you mess up. It could happen to anyone. One moment you're putting the highly combustible blasting powder down a hole. The next minute you've turned your head in distraction and you've dropped your tamping iron down that selfsame hole.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one compelling and very entertaining read, albeit not for the squeamish. While aimed at kids, adults will find it equally fascinating. It has all the elements of a wild work of fiction, yet it's an eyepoppingly true story--just try and put it down once you've opened it. It's great to see factual science presented in such a winning, approachable style. After ordering a copy for my biology-minded kids, we thought so highly of it that we got a copy to donate to our local library as well. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By CCags829 on August 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished reading this book with a 12-year old middle schooler. Both of us loved every page of this book and the incredible story of Phineas Gage.

As a undergrad student majoring in psychology, I also found this book to be quite fascinating, as it goes into more depth over the life of this extraordinary man who survived such a freak accident.

The book is perfect for young adults as it is a work of non-fiction of the highest quality. It seems like there aren't enough non-fiction books out there today that are geared towards young readers. It is a great introduction to major topics in biology including bacteria, organization of cells, as well as an in-depth discussion of the brain. Definitely a great book for psychology and biology students alike!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Henderson on March 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
John Fleischman does an excellent job of telling the story of Phineas Gage along with wonderful photographs that add to the understanding of what happened to him. His descriptions help children and adults understand more about how the brain works, and how Phineas' brain was changed by his accident. I wish I had read this book in college when I was taking courses in Psychological Anatomy... this is so much easier to read and comprehend. An incredible story that will make you want to visit Harvard Medical School to view the skull and tamping iron yourself!
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