Friday, March 30, 2018

ARC Review: They Lost Their Heads! by Carlyn Beccia

They Lost Their Heads!: What Happened to Washington's Teeth, Einstein's Brain, and Other Famous Body Parts
Author: Carlyn Beccia
Publication: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (April 3, 2018)

Description: From the kidnapping of Einstein's brain to the horrifying end of Louis XIV's heart, the mysteries surrounding some of history's most famous body parts range from medical to macabre. Carlyn Beccia explores the misadventures of noteworthy body parts through history and springboards to exploring STEM topics such as forensics, DNA testing, brain science, organ donation, and cloning. The engaging tone, wonderfully creepy subject matter, and delightfully detailed art are sure to capture even the most reluctant readers.

The famous people and their body parts include:
Galileo Galilei / Fingers
Louis XIV / Heart
George Washington / Teeth
Franz Joseph Hadyn / Head
Beethoven / Hair
Abraham Lincoln / Body
Chang and Eng Bunker / Liver
Phineas Gage / Skull
John Wilkes Booth / Neck vertebrae
Sarah Bernhardt / Leg
Vincent Van Gogh / Ear
Mata Hari / Head
Albert Einstein / Brain
Elvis Presley / Wart
Thomas Edison / Last Breath

My Thoughts: Filled with twisted humor and all sorts of facts about body parts, this book was a quick and entertaining story. While I read it in one sitting, I can easily see that it would be possible to pick this book up and read a page or two at a time without confusion. The book is quite episodic with selections ranging from a paragraph to three pages or so. Each selection describes what happens to a famous someone's body part or it talks about burial customs or decomposition or...

The book is also liberally sprinkled with footnotes that either add additional detail, direct the reader to search google for more information, or are complete asides by the author. The book is also heavily illustrated by the author. I read the ARC but assume that the finished drawing will still be in black and white and rather cartoonish. They do add some interesting detail to the stories. The book also has an extensive bibliography for readers who want more information about any of the people and topics in the book.

Middle grade fans with a rather gruesome sense of humor will particularly enjoy these entertaining bits of trivia.

Favorite Quote:
Two of the most notorious body snatchers were William Burke and William Hare. The made a killing supplying fresh corpses to doctor Robert Knox. And I mean literally . . . a killing. Instead of waiting for fresh corpses, they decided to speed things up and just murder people. The murdered sixteen people before they were caught. Hare was released after he gave evidence against Burke. Burke was hanged, and as a rather fitting punishment, his body was used for dissection. After the dissection, his skin was tanned and made into wallets and books. Legend even has it that author Charles Dickens owned a bookmark made from Burke's skin.*

*If you share my morbid curiosity, you might be wondering -- what exactly does a book made from human skin look like? Well, it actually looks like any other leather-bound book and holds up quite nicely. I promise . . . This book was not made from skin. (Evil laugh . . .) 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Bloomsbury. You can buy your copy here.

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