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by Kathleen Karr

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An orphan boy and his mentor, a phrenologist, encounter on adventure after another as they search the world for the skulls of famous historical figures.


An orphan boy and his mentor, a phrenologist, encounter on adventure after another as they search the world for the skulls of famous historical figures.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Karr's (The Great Turkey Walk; Man of the Family) comical, fast-paced novel reveals the seedy practices of 19th-century scientists. After his family falls victim to cholera, orphaned 12-year-old Matthew Morrissey survives on the streets of New York in 1839, until he reads about a position as assistant to Dr. ABC (Asa B. Cornwall). The shabby but flamboyant doctor is an expert in phrenology, "the scientific study of the mind through the surface of the skull." Matthew soon learns that his job entails not only impressing the wealthy clients who come in for character analyses but also robbing graves of famous heads. Matthew's literal hunger as well as his thirst for education outweighs his ethical reservations, and he quickly demonstrates his ingenuity in building and organizing the doctor's practice. The doctor's ambitious research and the duo's flight from a terrifying and mysterious body snatcher take them along the East Coast and across the Atlantic. Liberally packed with references to and witty details about important works, leaders (a final pursuit involves exhuming Napoleon's body from St. Helena for its transport back to Paris) and philosophies (e.g., Voltaire's famous "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"), Karr's latest is part history lesson and all entertainment. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Publishers Weekly
An orphaned 12-year-old survives on the streets of New York in 1839 as an assistant to Dr. ABC; his job is to impress wealthy clients as well as rob graves of famous heads. PW called this work "part history lesson and all entertainment." Ages 10-14. (Aug.)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-After losing his family to cholera, 12-year-old Matthew gets a job helping the eccentric Dr. Cornwall, a phrenologist in 1839 New York. The boy proves adept at helping the doctor provide "readings" of the heads of his clients and even improves business with his advertising schemes. Dr. Cornwall, however, requires actual skulls to conduct his research, and Matthew finds himself digging up graves in the dead of night. The phrenologist is especially interested in the skulls of great minds and the pair journey to Europe where he hopes to unearth Voltaire. Matthew has doubts about the ethics of their endeavors, but allows the persuasive doctor to talk him into continuing. Throughout their adventures, a mysterious villain whom they suspect has been hired by rival phrenologists pursues them. He even follows them to St. Helena, where the doctor hopes to make off with Napoleon's skull, but the final revelation of the menacing stalker's motives is disappointingly anticlimactic. Dr. Cornwall gets carried away with his profession at times, but has a good heart and true respect for science and knowledge. The boy is resourceful and clever, though he never develops into an especially unique or memorable character. The plot is fast paced at times, especially in the second half, and the elements of grave robbing and the intriguing "science" of phrenology may attract curious readers not ordinarily drawn to historical fiction.-Steven Engelfried, Deschutes County Library, Bend, OR Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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