The Great Brain
by John D. Fitzgerald
I have been frantically reading this week, preparing for my first book club meetings. We have had great success this fall, with nearly 200 kids registered and preparing to join together for fun as they eat a meal and discuss a just-read book. I took a break from the pace to have lunch with a fellow reader and library lover. We were discussing an upcoming meeting with the director of our local library system. We are getting a children's library! And, I am trying to find a spot for my "reading just for fun" advocacy. So, please pardon me if I give the Central Arkansas Library System a shout out and a big thank you for its support of children.
Anyway, at lunch my friend mentioned that she has had to stop listening to the radio and the news because of all of the political chatter. I told her, "I can appreciate your point of view, but I just can't tear myself away." I keep hoping that one day they will be discussing policy and not the Mormon faith. But, I guess this might mean I have something to learn. This point was driven home when I picked up the book selection for 4th grade, The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, and discovered on page 1 this line--"Adenville had a population of 2500 people, of which about 2000 were Mormons and the rest Catholics and Protestants." Please do not misunderstand, this is not a religious book, it was just a strange coincidence, and I found it fascinating.
This book is a delightful look at the turn of the last century. It takes place in Adenville, UT in 1896. In my experience, children of 2012 are amazed to find that most people can't imagine having a toilet indoors, that ice cream can not be purchased in a store, and that most toys were homemade. These historic realities unfold as John's older brother Tom puts his "great brain" to work to con the children and the adults in the community out of their last penny. It is simply told through chapters that read like short stories and is filled with many life lessons. Among them, be kind to all, the importance of family, and that the adults in a child's life can be depended on to help in a crisis. I will let you know how it plays with this current brood of readers. If you've read it yourself, let me know what you think of it.