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117 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Brain
I first read this book and the others in the series as a sixth-grader back in the mid-70s. I, too, read them over and over! I was so enthralled with the stories that I did what I always did with terrific books: looked for any other books by the same author. I was thrilled to discover that in addition to this fictionalized version of J.D.'s childhood, he had also...
Published on March 3, 2000 by Susan Reed

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kept changing my opinion
The narrator on the audiobook (3 cassettes) does a great job. At first, I loved the book. Then I started to get bored with the section about teaching the foreigner how to fight. Then I was really getting upset about Pegleg's depression and what the others were trying to help him do. But it redeemed itself when I realized what The Great Brain was doing and how he was...
Published 2 months ago by Aaron Marggraff


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117 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Brain, March 3, 2000
By 
Susan Reed (Carlsbad, California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Great Brain (Hardcover)
I first read this book and the others in the series as a sixth-grader back in the mid-70s. I, too, read them over and over! I was so enthralled with the stories that I did what I always did with terrific books: looked for any other books by the same author. I was thrilled to discover that in addition to this fictionalized version of J.D.'s childhood, he had also written three non-fiction books detailing his family history and experience in late 19th century Utah: Uncle Will and the Fitzgerald Curse, Papa Married a Mormon, and Mama's Boarding House. I promptly checked them out of the library and devoured them all. They are wonderful stories and an informative background to the Great Brain series. I add my plea to that of another reviewer: SOMEONE, PLEASE REPRINT THESE BOOKS by John D. Fitzgerald! They are a treasure that should not remain relegated to the dusty shelves of used bookstores!
I am currently reading The Great Brain to my six-year old son. At first I was afraid that the writing was a little too sophisticated for him, but with an explanation here and a definition there, he's doing just fine with it. He laughed uproariously at the scene in the opening chapter of the public uncrating and display of the first water closet (indoor flush toilet)in Adenville. These stories are terrific entertainment, as well as history lessons. They give kids a sense of how daily life was a century ago from a kid's perspective.
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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not to be missed, December 3, 2004
This review is from: The Great Brain (Hardcover)
To my knowledge, John Dennis Fitzgerald never won any of the prestigious children's book awards or accolades for this book or any of the others in the series, but it is my opinion as an avid reader from childhood that these books constitute some of the best available children's literature. Fitzgerald was in his sixties when he started this series, but he clearly never lost touch with his childhood self and all of these books are brilliantly written so that J.d. and his big brother seem like kids you know, even though they lived in a small Utah town at the turn of the century. These books have it all: an interesting historical setting; believable characters that develop as the series progresses; plenty of humor, of both the laugh-out-loud and subtler varieties; tenderness and pathos; and even a few good scares.

I picked up a copy of More adventures of the Great Brain, the second in the series, at a book fair in elementary school. (It isn't strictly necessary to read the books in order, though of course it's nice.) I was the most avid reader in my family, though the youngest, and for some reason one summer day when we were bored I started reading the book aloud to my older sister and my uncle, who was only five years older than me (I was nine or ten at the time.) Pretty soon, all three of us were devouring the rest of the series, swapping them among ourselves. I can't be sure, but I think the books may have started my sister's love of reading, though my uncle had always been a reader and had turned me on to the Lord of the Rings. At any rate, these were favorites for years.

Parents, please, please don't be put off by the fact that these books are about a mischievous boy with a penchant for swindling his pals out of their prized possessions. I have not raised children myself, but from my own reading I think children's books that don't have an element of mischief and rebellion in them or quite dull, and as a kid I hated nothing worse than to read a book where I felt like I was being preached to. T.d. gets into plenty of trouble, but his conscience develops as the books progress and he learns that his great brain can be used to help others as well as to cheat them. Unlike some other kids' books where the grownups are simply the bad guys, the adults in these stories are firm but supportive, strict but loving. Despite their tendency to disobey, T.D. and his brothers love and admire their parents and their beloved Uncle Mark, the town's marshall and deputy sheriff who is portrayed as both heroic and down to earth. J.D. says at one point that he really likes his uncle because "he never talked down to Tom and me, but treated us just like grownups," and like his fictional uncle (who may have been based on a real person) Fitzgerald never makes the mistake of condescending to his readers. The tragic story of Abie Glassman in this first volume isn't the last time readers will encounter hard truths in these stories, but Fitzgerald writes about the ups and downs of life in a way that kids will find delightful to digest. The author also lets kids know that grownups screw up, too, and that we all have to learn from each other.

The Great Brain series, as a whole, has the very best of a Wild West adventure, one of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer stories, and the best coming-of-age fiction. There are a few old-fashioned notions here that might not go down well with the PC crowd, like the episode in the second book in which the Fitzgerald family takes on the task of trying to get a tomboy to act more feminine, but none of this should keep you from reading these great stories or giving them to your kids. Despite J.D.'s quip in the first chapter of this book about there being noone more tolerant or understanding of your differences than a kid you can whip in a fight, these books are all about tolerance and treating your fellow man with decency and fairness and love. I am glad these books are still in print and I sincerely hope a whole new generation discovers them, as it would be nothing short of tragic for them to be lost in the dustbin of forgotten kids' lit. Buy them, read them, and pass them on.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book for Hard-To-Shop-For Boys (and girls, too), May 8, 2000
This review is from: The Great Brain (Paperback)
I read The Great Brain books in the 70's. Now that I have kids of my own, I've been introducing them to my old favorites. The wonderful thing about the Great Brain series is that it's timeless. It still as fresh as ever, just as full of fun and mischief. The series revolves around the exploits of a young would-be con artist who always seems to get caught. One of the best parts about this series is that it appeals to boys at the age when many of them stop reading for fun. I'm getting this book for one of my third-grade students (I'm a literacy tutor) as a end-of-the-year gift. I know that he will love it.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, But Not A Carefree Ride, January 27, 2010
By 
D. Simon (Long Island, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I agree with the other reviewers in that The Great Brain is an entertaining, clever, and highly intelligent read for 4th graders and up with excellent reading comprehension. However, parents may wish to be aware that the book raises a number of challenging, troubling issues to which their children may not have been previously exposed. All are dealt with in lighthearted ways, yet for some children, it may be the first time being exposed to some of the darker concepts - like feuds between Christian sects (since it takes place in Utah at the turn-of-the-century the narrator frequently discusses fights with the Mormon kids), anti-Semitism (when a Jewish merchant sets up shop in town and is presumed to be hoarding gold), the death of the merchant, alcoholism (when a plot hatches to get a disliked teacher fired by planting empty whiskey bottles in his room), amputation (when a child gets gangrene after stepping on a nail and is forced to lose his leg), and even suicide (when that child feels that he is "plumb useless" and tries to enlist his friends to help him end it all.)

Not only are these issues raised rather offhandedly, but the overall story is morally complex. It involves Tom, the narrator's brother, looked up to as a brilliant thinker, but the main focus of his Great Brain is how to make money from his brother, his friends, and their parents regardless of the circumstance. He is generally on the right side of each issue, but a cynical child might assume he is only in it for himself. For example, he helps defend an immigrant child from bullies. But he does it by convincing the boy's father that in order to be a "real American kid" he must learn how to fight, and that Tom is willing to teach him for a fee. Tom manages to swindle his friends out of their spare pennies, his parents out of their pocket change, and his brother out of his prized Indian beaded belt.

So I recommend this book as a good read for intelligent kids, but if they have previously been exposed to only typical lighthearted children's fare, be prepared to read it along with your child, as some thorny moral discussions may develop.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I remember this book from when I was a nine year old boy..., November 5, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Great Brain (Paperback)
I never read any of the books in the Great Brain series; they were actually read to me when I was a child. It was a ritual that my mother and I had every night. Just after I got in bed she would sit or lie down next to me and pull out a book. Over the years she read many different series, and to be honest, at the age of 23 all of these stories are a bit of a blur, except one series, The Great Brain. The Great Brain was by far my favorite I remember the stories as though they were read to me yesterday. One bit, which I remember particularly, is a scene in one of the books involving a headmaster (I think) and one of the brothers. I remember something being said about adults finding it admirable when children looked them in the eye while being addressed. That little bit has stayed with me all my life. After my Mother read that part I immediately started holding my head high and looking every adult who spoke to me in the eye. I've done that ever since, and when I do it I remember The Great Brain. Anyhow, I thought I would share this the world, especially any parent looking for a book that their child might like. If you haven't done it yet, you should consider reading this series to your own kid.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ditto Everyone Else, August 9, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Great Brain (Hardcover)
I just got online tonight to see if the Great Brain series was even still in print, and was so suprised to read all the wonderful reviews of it. I wanted to add mine to the long list of positive reviews! My mother read to all 4 of my siblings and me everynight for as long as I can remember. We had a vast library of childrens books--all the classics, but the Great Brain series was, along with Anne of Green Gables, the favorite.
The love of reading, and sharing books, was passed on to each of my mother's children and we all took turns reading to eachother at night, after we "went to bed" ;). I have many fond memories of laying in bed as one of my sisters read me these books, and also reading it to my younger siblings. I even had a stuffed dog named "Brownie" after the pet dog in these books.
I recently found my mother's set of the Great Brain, and it is falling apart with love!! All the books are held together with elastic bands to keep the loose pages from falling out.
I have my own son now and want to own the set to share with him. I wish they still sold it as a set, but its worth the money to buy individually.
HIGHLY recommend this book, and all in the series!!!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tom Sawyer meets Encyclopedia Brown, September 23, 2001
This review is from: The Great Brain (Paperback)
I loved the Great Brain as a kid.
Tom has a crafty brilliance about him, reminding me of the famous Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn fence-painting scene. Tom gets what he wants by thinking on his feet, adjusting his approach when necessary, and always winding up with a little more than he started with.
Readers of mysteries will find the Great Brain intriguing in the same way they wonder whodunit. Here, we wonder, "Hmm... would that work on my best friend in fourth grade." Unless you're as smart as Tom, probably not. The genuis in the midst of a little boy is wonderful to watch in action!
Despite the sneakiness, there is the gentle relationship between Tom and his brother. No worries here for parents looking to guide their children into wholseome reading supporting good values.
The book is a classic. Buy it for your oldest, and watch your youngest child be drawn into it as soon as he or she is able.
I fully recommend this book.
Anthony Trendl
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful for Kids - Boy or Girl, September 28, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Great Brain (Paperback)
I read the "Great Brain" series every summer when I was a kid. As a Catholic girl living in mostly-Mormon Salt Lake City, I loved reading about this family of boys in small-town Utah. The exploits of The Great Brain, and his relationship with his brothers, and his family's relationship with the other townsfolk, made for great stories. Funny, easy to read, and thrilling stories. I now have a toddler son and can't wait for when he's older to introduce these books to him!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Books, May 3, 2006
This review is from: The Great Brain (Paperback)
Wow, everyone keeps talking about how educational they were. I read them when I was a kid, and If I had known how educational they were when I was a kid, I wouldn't have devoured every single one of them with relish. I read a lot when I was a kid, and these books are the ones that stand out, above all as the best I read. Your kids will absolutely love them, and so will you. But let's keep this educational stuff a little hushed up.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moralistic tales of a mischeivous conniving scoundrel, March 14, 2006
This review is from: The Great Brain (Hardcover)
The title pretty much says it all. I read these books as a child and am re-reading them as a 35 year old adult. They haven't lost anything. The most interesting thing I've discovered as an adult is that the stories are structured as moralistic tales. The chapters are often, at least in the early books I'm re-reading, nearly self-contained stories and each teaches some valuable moral lesson.
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The Great Brain
The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald (Hardcover - January 1, 2000)
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