The Great Brain #1: The Great Brain

by John D. Fitzgerald

Other authorsMercer Mayer (Illustrator)
Paperback, 2004



Local notes

Fic Fit





Puffin Books (2004), Edition: Reissue, 192 pages


The exploits of the Great Brain of Adenville, Utah are described by his younger brother, frequently the victim of the Great Brain's schemes for gaining prestige or money.


Sequoyah Book Award (Nominee — Children's — 1970)
Vermont Golden Dome Book Award (Nominee — 1968-1969)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

192 p.; 5.06 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member multifaceted
I LOVED the Great Brain series as a kid! The books, when I think about them now, were so great on so many levels—they were informational in so many different ways alone. I learnt a lot about history, cultures, and acceptance of those different cultures; to this day some of those lessons have
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stuck with me. They were also hilariously funny, to boot. I barely even noticed I was reading anything informational and helpful, because they were so entertaining!

Now, years later, I’m trying to track down all the books in this series—unfortunately, I’m having trouble finding some of the books new in stores. I’m really kind of floored that a series this beneficial to kids and adults wouldn’t be in print!

As for the book itself... well, I'm in dire need of re-reading it.
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LibraryThing member nzf
An engaging novel for 4.8-5.2 reading levels. Students with short attention spans will enjoy the story collection presented with plenty of late 1800 local color. Plenty of tales that deal with the main characters fierce sense of independence and ingenuity surrounded by family and community values.
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Similar to the wisdom and grins a Huck Finn adventure readily provides. I highly recommend this novel and the following 7 novels in the series.
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LibraryThing member Stsmurphy
The best con man in the Midwest is only ten years old. Tom, a.k.a., the Great Brain, is a silver-tongued genius with a knack for turning a profit. When the Jenkins boys get lost in Skeleton Cave, the Great Brain saves the day. Whether it's saving the kids at school, or helping out Peg-leg Andy, or
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Basil, the new kid at school, the Great Brain always manages to come out on top and line his pockets in the process.
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LibraryThing member timspalding
My son and I are still listening to this, but it's an extraordinary work—much better than I ever imagined.
LibraryThing member Marse
I really enjoyed this book when I read it as an elementary school child. The only thing I remembered about it was the horror the main character felt at the thought of an indoor toilet. Reread as a middle-aged adult and I found it charming. The "Great Brain" is the hero of the story -- an intrepid
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boy named Tom, who always has an idea and a plan. I didn't realize there were a series of 'Great Brain' books.
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LibraryThing member drruth
Great story about a trio of Catholic brothers growing up in Mormon Utah at the turn of the century. The middle son is a schemer and conniver who outsmarts his brothers and friends because he can. Terrific stories.
LibraryThing member bibliophile26
I LOVED this book and laughed the whole time I was reading it. It is about a family growing up in the early 1900’s. You should read it even if you don’t like children’s books.
LibraryThing member Hamburgerclan
"The Great Brain" is Tom Fitzgerald, a ten-year-old boy who lives in Adenville, Utah in 1896. The book is about his shenanigans, as recounted by his younger brother John. It's an entertaining enough read, should you be looking for some waiting room material to pass the time, but as I read the book,
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I kept thinking that Tom seemed too much like a Tom Sawyer wannabe.
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LibraryThing member janetburt66
Tom, a.k.a., the Great Brain, is a fast talking genius with a knack for turning a profit. he has a knack for finding trouble, but the Great Brain always manages to come out on top—and makes a profit in the process.
LibraryThing member alanpan
a great book about a child and his great brain
LibraryThing member PMaranci
I've read a lot of books to my son. A lot. The Hobbit, all three books of The Lord of the Rings, the Narnia books, Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, six or seven of the original Doctor Dolittle books, several Three Investigators books, and far more. And he's loved almost all of them (I
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selected them carefully, from the books I loved best as I child and teen).

But so far, I think he loves the Great Brain series best.

Partly, I think that because they're so accessible. John D. Fitzgerald writes about his semi-fictionalized younger self in the true voice of a child - and that's quite an accomplishment. When his brother insults the father of a friend, the young John D. tells us that he has visions of that man coming down the street after them with a butcher knife. That's not the sort of language that most modern publishers allow in books for children, I believe, but it's how children think - some of the time. And over and over, as I was reading The Great Brain to my son, he'd stop me and ask me if the book really said what I'd just read.

You see, I sometimes can't resist adding a humorous comment or line now and then in some books - always, however, immediately admitting that the book didn't really say that. For this book I didn't add a word - but many of the passages in the book were so funny that my son suspected that I'd added them. I had to show him the lines in the book to convince him!

He pretty much had a huge grin on his face the whole time that I was reading. When I'd finish a chapter, he'd hold my arm and beg for another one. I can't think of higher praise for a book for children.

Each chapter in this book is a self-contained story, written in a beautifully straightforward style that some have compared to that of Mark Twain. John D. Fitzgerald (the author, as you'll note) chronicles his childhood as the younger brother of the infamous Great Brain, the greatest kid swindler in town. He is, of course, frequently the victim of the Great Brain.

In fact the Great Brain is pretty much a complete jerk, as we all noticed fairly quickly. But the stories are so entertaining that it doesn't matter.

A warning: the original edition and most later reissues are perfectly illustrated by Mercer Meyer. For some insane and inexplicable reason, there are a few editions out there that have been re-illustrated by other artists. This makes about as much sense as replacing the classic Tenniel illustrations in Alice In Wonderland (which has, of course, also been done. What were they thinking?).

Another point: the story begins in 1896. Although the town has electricity and street lights, one of the stories features the installation of the first flush toilet in town. It's hysterical, but it's also a great opportunity to explain something about history to young children in a way that they'll enjoy and remember.

All in all, a deeply enjoyable classic.
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LibraryThing member EmScape
The Great Brain, also known as Tom, is a 10 year old boy living with his family in rural Utah in the 1890's. His younger brother, J.D. (an analogue for the author) is the first-person narrator. Tom uses his Great Brain mainly to swindle other kinds in town and con his brother into doing things for
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him. At one point, when helping a friend overcome a devastating injury, he almost seems to have a heart, but then returns to his old ways pretty quickly.

This book actually contains one of the saddest things I've ever read, and which I was surprised at its inclusion in this children's book, was the story of how an old tinker was encouraged by Tom & J.D.'s dad to retire and set up a shop in their town, but nobody really shopped there, and he died of starvation. In this day and age in which the choice between shopping at the Wal-Mart or the local Mom & Pop shop is probably not a life or death decision, it still helps to be reminded that we should look out for each other.

I'd say this book falls into the category of "things I enjoyed reading as a child that still hold up upon reading as an adult". It didn't come off as cheesy or too juvenile and I enjoyed the setting.

It's interesting to note that the author could easily be very critical of Mormons in his text, since his was one of the only Catholic families in a very Mormon town and even now there are a lot of people who denigrate Mormons, but he does not do this at all, which is good.

Recommended for young and old, although very young children might need some comfort after the chapter about the tinker. Some good life lessons are contained herein, which should spark some discussion about right and wrong, honor, and deceit/manipulation.
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LibraryThing member KatiePU
Tom is a sly, smart but kind kid. His great brain is the biggest one in town, at least according to him. Tom's family lives in a big lives in a town with lots of kids. Tom and his little brother, who is the narrator of the story, face a lot of challenges and problems, like a mean teacher and two
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kids trapped inside a maze. Can Tom's great brain solve them all? You'll have to read the book to find out.

I enjoyed this book because it's very funny and serious at the same time. I think readers who love funny books but also adventure will love this book.
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LibraryThing member kristina_brooke
My daughter is loving this story!

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