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The Great Brain Hardcover – January 1, 2000
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* "A funny, fast-moving, endearing book that [readers] will lap up!"--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
About the Author
John D. Fitzgerald was born in Utah and lived there until he left at eighteen to begin a series of interesting careers ranging from jazz drummer to foreign correspondent. His stories of The Great Brain were based on his own childhood in Utah with a conniving older brother named Tom. These reminiscenses led to eight memorable Great Brain books. John D. Fitzgerald also wrote several best-selling adult books, including Papa Married a Mormon. He died in Florida, his home of many years, at the age of eighty-one.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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One nitpick: while I'm thankful these are finally available for the Kindle (long overdue), and they are as great a read as always, it appears that Mercer Mayer's classic illustrations are not included. I don't understand why that is, as these illustrations add a great deal of atmosphere to the original books and I really wish they were included here. Perhaps the Kindle files will be updated someday. I almost knocked off a star or two just for that, but ultimately these are great books nonetheless, and the fault lies only in the Kindle version in particular.
Moreover, it's terrific historical fiction. Fitzgerald uses several incidents which illustrate just how different 1890's lifestyles were from today, but he does so with humor. As a result, it really begins to interest kids in learning more about history. The Magic Water Closet is a prime example, as is The Taming of Britches Dotty. One illustrates the difference in living conditions; the other what behavioral expectations were for girls in that time period.
There is also one final lesson which can be learned from Fitzgerald's books. For all that Tom is a swindler and junior size con artist, he is also a character who chooses his own path and is unswayed by peer pressure. Tom is an outsider, in a sense, set apart from the other kids in town by his self-styled great brain. Similarly gifted children often downplay their talents in order to be accepted by other children. Tom's example is that of a child who does not feel the need to represent himself as less than he is. He has confidence in himself and in his abilities and feels no need to sell himself short in order to make friends. Children can definitely learn from this.
Although most of the characters are male, I loved the series myself and have never had a female student who did not connect with J.D. and T.D. By all means, please introduce these books to your children (and please, please, publishers, keep them in print!)