The Great Brain

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This book, based upon the author’s own childhood experiences with a mischievous older brother named Tom is set in 1896 Adenville, UT. John D. tells the stories about Tom D. (all three brothers, the first one named Sweyn, have the middle name of Dennis) Fitzgerald, age 10, who has a “great brain” and can figure out solutions to all kinds of problems, including how to make money from giving tours of the family’s new water closet, find some friends who are lost in a cave, help a Greek immigrant boy learn his way around, deal with the mean new teacher named Mr. Standish, and assist his friend Andy who has lost a leg. Tom comes across as a conniving, rationalizing kind of person who takes undue advantage of other people, but he does undergo a reformation in the end. Along the way, he expresses a little lying, disobedience, and defiance (and it is interesting that on one occasion his father says, “I have never laid a hand on you,” which may explain some things), but there are consequences that result, and when some of Tom’s schemes backfire he, and his brother, learn some valuable lessons. The language is not bad, although common euphemisms such as gosh, heck, darn, and gee are found. Also be warned that the boy who loses his leg, Andy, at first wants to commit suicide and gets John to help him try several times, although Tom aids Andy in learning to overcome his handicap. In general, this is a quaint, nostalgic look at young people’s life in a previous generation. Understanding that it does not always necessarily present a good role model for children, it is still an enjoyable read, and there are opportunities to point out some important lessons. There are several sequels: More Adventures of the Great Brain, Me and My Little Brain, The Great Brain at the Academy, The Great Brain Reforms, The Return of the Great Brain, The Great Brain Does It Again, and The Great Brain is Back.

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