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The Great Brain (The Great Brain #1)

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  13,369 Ratings  ·  745 Reviews
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 Basil, the new kid at school, the Great Brain always manages to come out on ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published February 9th 2004 by Puffin Books (first published 1967)
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Sep 12, 2010 Peter rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any child, and any adult with a sense of humor
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 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 writ
Feb 19, 2008 Bonnie rated it it was amazing
Okay, what Miniscule Brain at Dell Yearling authorized the AWFUL, anachronistic covers for the 1970s reprints of these books? I'm sorry, but it's Mercer Mayer's original drawings or NOTHING, in my opinion. If you are unlucky enough to own the 1970s Dell Yearling reprints with their Little Rascals-esque cover art, you have my profound pity. The good news is that Mayer's classic, gorgeous, marvelous drawings are still included inside the books. Fitzgerald alone is great, but Fitzgerald with Mayer? ...more
Jan 23, 2008 Doug rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Afton Nelson
Oct 31, 2010 Afton Nelson rated it really liked it
Shelves: juvenile
My modern day sensitivities got in the way again when, in the last chapter of this book I read out loud to my boys, I started reading about peg leg Andy who wanted to commit suicide because he was plumb useless. Our dear narrator, little J.D. was just the type of pal to help him out too. I continued to read about the different ideas the boys came up with to do in Andy, and tried to figure out what I could make up to pretend the story was over and get out of reading the last 10 or so pages of the ...more
Shala Howell
What The Five-Year-Old Thought: "I can't explain why I liked it except that JD is telling the story. Tom is the one with the Great Brain and he rescued a few guys."

What Mommyo thought: My husband is in the process of reading this to our 5YO. Both are really enjoying it (true confessions -- my husband read this as a child, so his enjoyment may be partly nostalgia).

When they got to the bit about making homemade ice cream, The 5YO said: “Daddyo, I want to jump into the book right that second.”

Jul 12, 2012 Trace rated it really liked it
I rated this 4 stars and my son rated it 5 stars so we're agreeing upon a 4.5 star rating.

The entire time I read this book, I couldn't help but compare the unstructured childhood described in this book with today's highly structured children. The boys in this book experienced a freedom that is not found today.... sure they found themselves in hot water and made some lots of mistakes - but I loved reading about how they worked things out or learned their lessons by EXPERIENCING them....
There wo
Mar 19, 2009 Kristen rated it it was amazing
Want to learn how to charge people to see a toilet flush? Need to learn to swim, or walk with a peg leg? Find your way out of a dangerous cave? Get rid of a strict teacher? Ask the Great Brain, Thomas "T.D." Fitzgerald. Set in the early days of Utah statehood (1896)in southern Utah, John "J.D." Fitzgerald recounts the amazing and mind blowing stunts and escapades of he and his brothers, among the minority of Catholics in a predominantly Mormon community. When the "Great Brain" puts his mind to w ...more
Dec 27, 2011 Amy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
I got this book for my nephew, who's seven, after my sister told me he was reading chapter books now. Actually, it turns out he's not quite that advanced, but I figured he and his dad might enjoy reading these very funny books together anyway. When it arrived, I decided to reread a chapter or two to be sure it was as good as I remembered.

It was--oh, it was. But it was also very, very different, much more complex in its portrayal of ethics than I realized when I ordered it and, I think, perhaps a
May 05, 2013 Dennis rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
I bought this one for my nephews out of nostalgia the other day, remembering having liked it as a kid. And so I thought I ought to reread it myself. It's not often one reads fiction set in 19th century Utah, and this is an interesting perspective from the Fitzgeralds--Sweyn, Tom and John--three Catholic boys who grew up circa 1896 in Utah's Dixie, in the small fictionalized Mormon town of Adenville (the author in fact was born and raised in Carbon County).

What I did not remember was the narcissi
Feb 26, 2013 Laura rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book! I read this one to my children and we laughed through most of it and then I cried through the rest. One aspect that I really loved was how real it felt, like I was growing up right along side J.D. and Tom. I also loved the perspective of what it was like to grow up in a small Utah town and not be a Mormon. Being a Mormon myself, I had never really thought what it would be like to view of us from outside the religion. I thought it was done very fairly and many things were eyeop ...more
Nov 19, 2009 Kasha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: boy-books
Oh I really enjoyed this book and I wanted to give it 5 stars, but it had a few little issues. Before I go into the nitty gritty I have to say to my sister Nikki, YOU HAVE TO READ THIS! We have a favorite story from when we were little. My dad was the cheapest person any of us knew, and he took Nikki and I to MacDonalds one afternoon. When my mom took us we had always shared a happy meal, but somehow my sister talked my dad into letting us each get our own. And not only that, she was able to ord ...more
Nov 15, 2012 ABC rated it it was amazing
Shelves: older-kids
We owned the boxed set of these books, and I devoured them. Loved them all, although my favorite book was the one where Tom (The Great Brain) goes to the academy. However, one of the most memorable things I read as a child was contained in this book. It is the part about Abie Glassman. His story was one that stayed with me forever.

Some things that I am thinking now as an adult:

These stories are WAY more mature than I remembered. There are stories about illness, suicide, death and so on. It is al
Alexx Mahn
Feb 28, 2013 Alexx Mahn rated it it was amazing
This book is a very humorous and capturing book about a young boy who lived late in the 1800's and was the best swindler of anyone ever. Each chapter is another trick or Tom's own way of making money. His father is putting a bathroom into their house and he charged kids a penny each to come and watch. He saved his two friends who got lost in a cave outside the town by using his "big brain" to figure out where they were and get them out safely. Not all his schemes were good though. He also tried ...more
Michael Anson
Apr 26, 2013 Michael Anson rated it really liked it
This book was a childhood favorite. Last Christmas I sent a copy to my nephews, and a week and a half ago, I decided I needed my very own copy to put on my bookshelves. It's set in Utah in the late 1800's, and despite being written in 1969, it is still in print, a testament to its staying power. Written from the perspective of J.D (John Dennis), the stories revolve primarily around his brother Tom--T.D. Something I didn't notice the first hundred times I read it is that J.D. is also the initials ...more
Tara Lynn
This was probably one of my favorite kids series. I love children's literature that makes you think, and is less concerned with the moral of the story than the idea of you figuring out how to solve your problems on your own. By default, most children's literature presents a moral, but I adored these books for making me THINK. Tom D. is the lovable Great Brain, and many of his schemes make a younger reader appreciate the peaks and pitfalls of relying on your own knowledge and learning from your m ...more
Jul 09, 2015 LobsterQuadrille rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction, children's lit fans
It's been a long time since I last read these books, and I really enjoyed jumping back into the series with this book! Tom Fitzgerald(a.k.a. The Great Brain) is a born con-man, able to turn any situation to his financial advantage. He often recruits his younger brother John to help him in his schemes(whether John is aware of it or not!).
The historical setting of this book is interesting and very detailed, and I enjoyed the diverse cast of characters, with everyone from settlers to peddlers to
Amy (A Magical World of Words)
3.5 stars. This edition isn't the one I've got, but I couldn't find the right one on goodreads.

I loved this book; a true story. Thoroughly entertaining, relaxing to read, and with a satisfying ending. Chap 5 was probably my favourite chapter......I loved all those fights, hehe.
Tom's dishonesty and naughtiness is hilarious, especially seeing his antics through the very ignorant and naive eyes of his younger brother. Tom is very clever, but I like how at the end he gives up his "life of crime";
Kathy Kenney
Apr 12, 2012 Kathy Kenney rated it really liked it
My husband read these as a child, but I had never heard of the author or the books, so I read the first one and it's a really great read even for an adult. It covers topics that today I doubt would be published in a children's book and not every scenario ends happily. My husband said he read these when he was about 8 years old, which surprises me, but an 8 year old would get something out of it different than a teenager, different than an adult. This book dealt with items such as death, suicide, ...more
Jul 18, 2012 Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
In the nostalgic world of 1890s Utah, a precocious ten year old schemes ways to swindle the local children and make a few pennies. Occasionally he uses his incredible powers of cognition to exact revenge on cruel adults or to save the day, such as when he intervenes to save a child amputee from committing suicide. (Yes, said kid was driven to self-harm because he couldn't participate in games of "kick the can"? These stories are quite a bit darker than I remember!) Anyway, it seems crazy that th ...more
Mar 31, 2012 Tiffany rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
"The Great Brain" is one of the great, unsung book series for kids. I loved them as a kid, so I bought the whole set for my son for Christmas. He didn't take to them like I thought he would, so I did what I always do: I started reading them out loud to my boys at night. We just finished the second one and they are completely won over now.

To me, these are the consummate "boy" books, about a family of boys growing up in Utah during the turn of the century. (The author is not Mormon, but there is
Aug 20, 2009 Lindy rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, when I read it earlier this year, and Abbi devoured it.

It is about a boy growing up in a small Utah town around the turn of the century who is not Mormon. It deals with such topics as; siblings (brothers specifically), parenting, family dynamics, social order, charity, etc.

There is an extremely sad part. I cried when I read it. Abbi brought it up to me, showing that she was ready for discussion, but was more thoughtful than talkative. That part of the book has tremendous wo
Aug 27, 2011 Heather rated it really liked it
We read this as a bedtime story. Some nights we were all laughing our heads off and other nights we were bawling. Tom is such a naughty boy though that sometimes it's hard as a parent to feel good about sharing his exploits. My boys seem to have figured out that most of what he does isn't "good" and one son in particular is downright shocked by him.

A fun story set 'back in the day'. It does give me a good glimpse into the minds of boys....and it scares me.
Nov 06, 2014 Karen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jacob, ellie, mom
Listening to the audio. We loved this one! Great way for kids to see how to think through problems..krb 6/12/15

Listening to the audio again in the car...krb 1/10/16
Once again this was a great story. It has it's moments when I think I should turn it off because I don't want my children to hear that part but when I stick with it the outcome of the situation is just so worth it. My son is now using HIS great brain and coming up with the most hilarious stuff..krb 1/17/16
Mar 30, 2010 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrensbooks
I enjoyed reading this book with my boys. (They think they have great brains.) There were times in the book when they were scared, and parts that I skipped. (just a little bit too many pages about contemplating and attempting suicide.) But we loved the ending.

Aaron saw mommy crying as I read the ending. He went over and cuddled with her.

I never read this book as a kid. Should have.
Oct 14, 2014 Leisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Obviously a re-read from childhood. I had a half hour to kill, so I grabbed it off my shelves. I loved this series when I was a kid - loved how smart Tom was about everything, but reading it as a adult is eye-opening because really, Tom is a little sh*t, isn't he? And J.D. is just as gullible as they come. It was still a fun read, and I am sure kids today would enjoy it.
Sep 02, 2009 Elsha rated it it was amazing
I'm on a children's book kick. Liked this book as a child and enjoyed as an adult. The little incidents are funny yet it's frustrating to see the "Great Brain" manipulate the situations into his favor. The "Great Brain" probably turned out to be very rich and was already conniving. A good, fun read.
Dec 10, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
Read these a million times as a kid and am now reading them to my 2nd grader, who gets very cranky if he doesn't get his Great Brain before bedtime. The portrait of late 19th-century Utah colors my perceptions of the old West even today. It wasn't until about book five that Tom became a downright dishonest cheat, so this one is pretty safe.
Bethany Lonsinger
Jan 13, 2015 Bethany Lonsinger rated it it was amazing
j.D. lives with the youngest swindler in Adenville. His name is Tom. Their attic is full of useless junk. Tom is also called the great brain. Read about how the great brain swindles almost every boy in Adenville, even his own brother. If you like fun books, read The Great Brain.
Oct 02, 2012 Jami rated it really liked it
Any book that gets my 8 year old son to laugh out loud and read an entire book in one day gets my vote! Then I picked it up and couldn't put it down. We've read 3 of the books so far. Great discovery!
Apr 02, 2015 Krista rated it liked it
I read this one aloud to my class as part of the Dixie Power Kite Festival project my first year in Utah. Cute story!
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John Dennis Fitzgerald was born in Price, Utah, on February 3, 1906, to Thomas and Minnie Melsen Fitzgerald. His father had a pharmacy degree but engaged in a number of business ventures and served on the Price Town Council for four years. John graduated from Carbon High School and at the age of eighteen and left Utah to pursue a career as a jazz drummer. He wo
More about John D. Fitzgerald...

Other Books in the Series

The Great Brain (8 books)
  • More Adventures of the Great Brain (Great Brain #2)
  • Me and My Little Brain (Great Brain #3)
  • The Great Brain at the Academy (Great Brain #4)
  • The Great Brain Reforms (Great Brain #5)
  • The Return of the Great Brain (#6)
  • The Great Brain Does it Again (Great Brain #7)
  • The Great Brain Is Back (Great Brain #8)

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