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The Great Brain (The Great Brain #1)

4.16  ·  Rating Details  ·  12,328 Ratings  ·  699 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, 175 pages
Published August 1971 by Dell (first published 1967)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 21, 2008 Bonnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 12, 2010 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Afton Nelson
Oct 31, 2010 Afton Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 29, 2012 Doug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.”

Feb 26, 2013 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 19, 2009 Kristen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 07, 2013 Dennis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 17, 2013 Trace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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";
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
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
Michael Anson
Apr 29, 2013 Michael Anson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 27, 2011 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I got this book for my nephew, who's seven, after my sister told me he was reading chapter books now. After it arrived, and after some further conversation, I realized that "chapter" was a term she was using quite loosely, but I still thought it would be nice to read together with his father, but 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
Alexx Mahn
Feb 28, 2013 Alexx Mahn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 15, 2012 ABC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 16, 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
Kathy Kenney
Apr 12, 2012 Kathy Kenney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 02, 2015 Krista rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this one aloud to my class as part of the Dixie Power Kite Festival project my first year in Utah. Cute story!
Aug 20, 2009 Lindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 30, 2016 Bree rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous book! Thanks for the recommendation Laura!
Isaac Knight
Apr 21, 2016 Isaac Knight rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book takes place in Adenville, Utah in 1896. Tom and John are brothers, Tom is the oldest and is known for his great brain. John idolizes Tom even though Tom likes, with his great brain, to trick John into doing his chores. John isn't Toms only target though all the other kids in town are in danger of Tom's great brain swindling them, almost everything tom does comes with some price so he can make a profit.

Tom goes about tricking kids into giving him things or getting things from them. No m
Margaret Martin
Nov 28, 2015 Margaret Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids-books-read
This is a classic and it is well-written, but it is not for young children. Having missed this book myself as a kid, and encouraged by nostalgic Goodreads reviews written by parents enjoying the book with their children, I jumped into The Great Brain with my 7- and 5-year-old. I quickly realized some of the content and general tone were a bit over their heads. For those not familiar with this book and considering reading it to their own kids, be forewarned that the book contains scenes of spanki ...more
Tanya D
Sep 07, 2015 Tanya D rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids
I read this to my 7 and 11 year old boys. I never read it as a kid but was always familiar with the title, so I was looking forward to reading it. But it was not as great I hoped. I thought it would be more lighthearted but some of the adventures were very serious and disturbing, for me and my kids. My kids were kinda depressed after our nightly reading with big frowns on their faces.


Example 1: A Jewish neighbor literally starves to death because his business is failing but he's too
Sep 02, 2015 Alexis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I'm re-reading a lot of childhood favourites, to study their form and to see how they stand up when I read them as an adult. This one stood up fairly well, but I was surprised by my responses to it. I really disliked Tom, the Great Brain, and thought he was a total asshat. I don't remember feeling that as a child.

Mercer Mayer's drawings are excellent and add a lot to the narrative. These books are funny and engaging and I can see why I loved them.

I was surprised by how much I remembered and how
Mar 26, 2015 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 12, 2014 Musabika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fun, funny book. This book is told in the true voice of a child. It is intended for young children, but older readers will also enjoy it. In fact, you will probably enjoy it more if you are older because you can better understand the parts that makes this so hysterical, for example, the parts where the Great Brain (Tom) tries to justify himself to his younger brother, John (the protagonist). Basically, after every scam Tom pulls off, John tries to call him out on it. Before long, though, Tom h ...more
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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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