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The Curiosity House #1

The Shrunken Head

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What you will find in this book:

– A rather attractive bearded lady
– Several scandalous murders
– A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head
– Four extraordinary children with equally extraordinary abilities
– A quite loquacious talking bird

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

This sensational new series combines the unparalleled storytelling gifts of Lauren Oliver with the rich
knowledge of the notorious relics collector H.C. Chester.

What you will NOT find in this book:

– An accountant named Seymour
– A never-ending line at the post office
– Brussel sprouts (shudder)
– A lecture on finishing all your homework on time
– A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published September 29, 2015

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About the author

Lauren Oliver

58 books119k followers
Lauren Oliver is the cofounder of media and content development company Glasstown Entertainment, where she serves as the president of production. She is also the New York Times bestselling author of the YA novels Replica, Vanishing Girls, Panic, and the Delirium trilogy: Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem, which have been translated into more than thirty languages. The film rights to both Replica and Lauren's bestselling first novel, Before I Fall, were acquired by AwesomenessTV; Before I Fall is now a major motion picture and opened in theaters March of 2017. The sequel to Replica, titled Ringer, is her most recent novel and was released October 3rd, 2017.

Her novels for middle grade readers include The Spindlers, Liesl & Po, and the Curiosity House series, co-written with H. C. Chester. She has written one novel for adults, Rooms.

A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU's MFA program, Lauren Oliver divides her time between New York, Connecticut, and a variety of airport lounges. You can visit her online at www.laurenoliverbooks.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 422 reviews
Profile Image for ✦BookishlyRichie✦.
639 reviews1,039 followers
March 6, 2016


This gave me a Series of Unfortunate Events meets American Horror Story: Freakshow vibe and I loved every freaking moment of it. This book is so full of dark humor that it almost busts out through the seams. It's dark, hilarious, heart-warming, whimsical, heart-breaking, and bubbling with with mystery. Don't go into this book expecting a cute Middle-Grade read because you'll be incredibly disappointed. It's not cute at all, it's 10x better than that.


I loved all of the characters, even the bad ones and look forward to seeing what comes their way in the sequel coming in May. I loved Pippa mostly, she seemed like the head of the group and kept things going so they could solve this insane mystery. That's another thing I loved was the mystery in this book, it definitely gives off a bit of a vintage Nancy Drew vibe too.


I'm usually very good at telling who the killer is at the end of mysteries and in this one, I didn't really see it coming. I loved that I didn't see it coming either, it made the story much more fun. I will talk more about it in my February Wrap Up video on my channel soon but if you're looking for something, dark, funny, mysterious, and full of adventure, I'd say snatch this up ASAP. Again, I can't wait for the sequel in May. :D
Profile Image for Steysha.
109 reviews212 followers
July 3, 2015
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages: welcome to Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders!

Oh, what an adventure! I haven`t read children's literature in a long time, though many things happening in this book can`t be called childish. It`s quite suitable for adults - the main characters might be children, but the events that occur in their life are definitely severe. I had goose bumps from the description of the hanged man!

This story reminded me a bit of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children - extraordinary kids, illustrations... Speaking of which, I was so delighted with the pictures! But I would also like to have more of them. Perhaps the best are left for the continuation of the series.

The book itself is very atmospheric - I fell in love Dumfrey's Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders! And, of course, the main characters are very impressive – The Fantastic Four: Thomas, Sam, Max and Pippa. Unfortunately, I cannot say that it was unputtable and that I read it in one setting, but I think it`s just me. Recently, I`ve read only YA books, and it was unusual to stand in children`s shoes – probably that`s the problem.

I was able to guess who’s the main killer, but the twist at the end of the book -- that was unexpected! A lot was left unsaid about the kids’ story, so I look forward to the second part, which will open the veil of truth.

So, let's get acquainted with the protagonists: Thomas – a boy without bones who can bend in all directions and fit in a matchbox. Pippa - a psychic, and even though her ability hasn`t fully developed yet, the content of your pockets won`t be a secret for her. Sam - a modest boy with immodest force, a relative of Samson (just kidding, they are not related by blood), he can easily destroy a mountain with his fist... or to break into someone`s property – that`s more practical. Finally, Max – a knife-thrower – the last one who joined the team, thereby collecting four children together.

Since then, there happened to be a series of incredible events. It all started with Mr. Dumfrey - the owner of this circus of freaks - acquiring a shrunken head, which became the highlight of his collection. After it trumpets through the entire city, Dumfrey sets a show with children and other members of the museum - such as the fattest lady in the world, an alligator-boy, a magician and many others - and demonstrates the unfortunate head.

The performance was attended by a journalist, whose articles soon glorified the museum and attracted a big amount of visitors to it, but the thing is - the head brought it into disrepute. One of the spectators had died after the show, and all at once it was decided that it happened because of the curse of the shrunken head. However, it did not stop people from visiting the museum - quite the contrary!

So, one night someone sneaks into the museum... and steal the head! Everyone was in despair - the museum needed money, but they couldn`t earn them without the main item of their collection. Fearing the threat of life on the streets or in shelters, children take up their own investigation, which will lead them to a very unexpected ending. They will have to show courage and ingenuity and, most importantly, they will have to unite for the common good - because kids are so different and are much better at quarreling than in friendship.

I admit that some chapters made me shudder: in some they had to go to the crime scenes and see the corpses, or visit the morgue to find some clues. True, it was specified in the summary - you will NOT find in this book a sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys. But these moments have added poignancy to the mystery and made me eager to read more.

I also need to add that the kids in this book are quite extraordinary - not only because of their miraculous abilities, but also because of their personalities. They had to go through the ordeals, but they never whined, and always were looking for a way out. Max represents a troubled child who grew up on the streets. She has no manners, likes to steal for fun, but still attracts us with her sincerity and defiant behavior. Pippa is the most sensible and educated in their team – my little grammar nazi - you just can`t help but like her! Thomas is a dashing adventurer and the leader of the team aka the engine of their progress. And, of course, Sam – the quietest and the calmest of them all. He speaks only when it`s truly needed and mostly prefers to listen. It was funny to read about his relationships with Max - opposites attract!

Well, I guess it`s time for me to stop. This book is worth your attention: it exceptional, mysterious, adventures and full of funny moments! Thank you, Lauren Oliver and H.G.Chester!
Profile Image for Ivonne Rovira.
1,861 reviews191 followers
June 3, 2016
Lauren Oliver, best known for her children’s book Liesl & Po and her adult novel Rooms, shows that she’s not bound by age or genre with The Shrunken Head, a middle-grades novel that will appeal as much to adults as children.

In New York City in the depths of the Great Depression, orphans Philippa “Pippa” Devue, Thomas Able, and Sam Fort have lived nearly their entirely lives at Dumphrey’s Dime Museum (a Ripley’s Believe It or Not-style museum combined with circus acts) under the watchful eye of the kindly owner Mr. Dumphrey. Each has a special, if offbeat, power: Pippa can visualize whatever anyone has in their pockets, Thomas is as flexible as any India-rubber man, and Sam has Superman-level strength. The trio are joined by a fourth orphan, a girl named Mackenzie (a.k.a. “Max”) who can throw knives with perfect precision.

When Mr. Dumphrey picks up an allegedly cursed shrunken head, the head gets stolen and people begin to die. Despite Mr. Dumphrey’s warning not to get involved, the children do. What results are loads of suspense and a well-paced mystery that will keep you guessing until the penultimate chapter. Of course, comparisons with Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society are inevitable; in both books, extremely gifted children living in an unusual place with a benevolent mentor face a world-class criminal. Still, I enjoyed The Shrunken Head, and I especially appreciated Pippa for her honesty, good heart, and good sense.

While Oliver does keep her promise that The Shrunken Head is not “[a] sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys,” her book does provide a much-needed message that being different doesn’t mean being a freak or inferior and that working together is how most problems are solved.

Lastly, I especially enjoyed reading this book in a Buddy Read with my Great Escape sister, Randee, which made the experience that much better.
Profile Image for alittlelifeofmel.
882 reviews342 followers
July 2, 2021
2021 reread:
I still really enjoyed this book on a reread and I thoroughly look forward to continuing on with this series.


Lauren Oliver has finally done it! She's finally given me a book that I enjoyed and wasn't bored throughout the entire thing. Apparently where it's at is middle grade for Lauren Oliver books!

This story followed 4 young children, Pippa, Max, Sam and Thomas and their journey and adventure to solving a series of murders before their home (a dime museum) gets closed down. Each one has very special powers that helps them solve the crime.

I ADORED this story. It was so good! The mystery wasn't predictable and leaves you questioning constantly who is responsible (I guessed right early on but there were moments I second guessed myself). The 4 characters themselves are very distinct and very loveable characters, each having their own quirks and attributes that set them out in my mind!

This gave me a sort of American Horror Story: Freak Show vibe mixed with traditional middle grade feelings. It was such a nice little read and gave me nostalgia for the kind of middle grade books I read as a kid. I'm not a huge middle grade reader but I am definitely going to be checking out more of Lauren Oliver's middle grade books and I am eagerly anticipating the second book in this series!
Profile Image for Stacey (prettybooks).
501 reviews1,548 followers
November 29, 2015
I've enjoyed two of Lauren Oliver's middle grade novels before – Liesl & Po and The Spindlers so I was quite excited to see that she had written another. It's the first in The Curiosity House series and was perfect to add to my Halloween TBR. However, I did make the mistake of picking it up straight after reading The Diviners . Both feature an intriguing museum, mysterious murders and characters with unusual abilities. This similarity meant that I was often mixing the two up! But my favourite thing about The Shrunken Head is the wonderful child characters and the message that just because you're different, doesn't mean you need to be ashamed.

The Shrunken Head features four extraordinary children: Philippa the powerful mentalist (she can guess what's in your pockets!); Sam the world's strongest boy; Max the knife-thrower; and Thomas, who can squeeze himself into a tiny spaces. They adore working at Dumfrey's Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders, and are extremely proud of their abilities. That is, until their prized show-stopper – an Amazonian shrunken head – is stolen from the museum. After a string of brutal murders, the press start spreading lies about the children. Everyone believes it's the curse of the shrunken head and the child 'freaks', so it's up to Philippa, Sam, Max and Thomas to discover the real culprit!

The Shrunken Head is a delightful and dark children's mystery from Lauren Oliver and H.G. Chester. I'd have loved even more illustrations – one of my favourite things about children's books! – from Benjamin Lacombe. They were enchanting and brought the story to life. As with The Diviners, I would have preferred the story to be a little shorter – I like my mysteries shorty and snappy! Nonetheless, it's a story well worth reading for it's incredible, feisty protagonists!

We get to see the exciting adventure from each of the children's points of view. They're all very unique and talented, even if they're coming together for one cause. Max is possibly my favourite of them all. She's so incredibly blunt and has an amazing sense of humour, and is extremely loyal and trustworthy! All of the children were wonderful and yet are often treated as outcasts, but the message of The Shrunken Head is a powerful one: it's okay to be different.

Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

I also reviewed this book over on Pretty Books.
Profile Image for Sara Saif.
543 reviews220 followers
June 4, 2017

Actual Rating: 3.5/4

I wouldn't have picked this series up if I hadn't bought the second book in this series back in February because the cover looked beautiful. Sigh. But, The Shrunken Head was surprisingly enjoyable. It was very easy to read and follow and thank goodness for that because dehydration makes you temporarily stupid and drowsy.

Pippa, Sam, Thomas and Max are four orphans with extraordinary abilities who are part of a museum in New York. The Museum allegedly exhibits oddities and wonders from all over the world and also houses a group of performers, the children included. Dumfrey's Dime Museum is the last of its kind and sorely lacking on the business side of things until one day when the museum exhibits its latest item: the Shrunken Head (of blah-b-d-blah).

-It took me a while to figure it out but the setting is not in modern day New York. It was a little frustrating that it wasn't explicitly stated.
-Things come together quite nicely at the end but I wasn't totally blown off my feet.
-I still have no idea Dumfrey recognized Max instantly after seeing her for the first time ever. That's the only loose end I found, the rest wrapped up.
-I saw that one about the scientist coming.
-The illustrations very really good and so was the cover.

It's a good book, one you aren't too concerned about figuring out and can just sit back and relax with.

Profile Image for Kateryna.
481 reviews85 followers
October 7, 2017
This story followed four orphaned extraordinary children housed in a museum of oddities and their adventures to solving a series of murders. Let it be known that I can't resist a middle grade book. And this one is just so much fun! I really liked the fact that it was extremely fast paced. I enjoyed how the mystery unraveled, it kept me guessing the entire time. It also had a great ending, everything fit perfectly together like a puzzle. Overall, this is a great story with the beautiful illustrations. I’m curious to find out more about kid's further adventures in the next books of this series.
Profile Image for Ferlina (bigpileofbooks).
219 reviews224 followers
May 18, 2021
I enjoyed this more than I expected. Even though, I didn't feel really attached with the characters, I love the middle-grade mystery vibe in it! And also all those beautiful illustrations.

This book made me feel like I'm back again at the time when I reread "The Famous Five" series for 10000x times. Those beautiful days....

Well, if you're looking for an easy-reading MG book with a little mystery in it, maybe you should try this one!
Profile Image for Rashika (is tired).
976 reviews713 followers
September 27, 2015
***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato

This book honestly just wins. The Shrunken Head is one of the best middle grade novels I’ve read in a while and I barely even knew what it was about before diving in. I just saw the pretty cover and that it was by an author whose name I was familiar with so I decided to give it a shot. This book was 1000% worth it.

The Shrunken head is EVERYTHING. This book combines the supernatural, with a historical setting, throws in a little bit of mystery AND also goes on to explore the awkwardness of being a preteen who is starting to go through puberty. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

This book is a very quick read (even at 360 pages) and you will be flipping pages, BELIEVE ME. You will want to see these kids get down to the bottom of the mystery. You will be cheering them on and you will want to punch all the assholes who refer to them as freaks.

Phillipa, Sam, Thomas and Max are children with special abilities. Phillipa can read minds (kind of), Sam is super strong (and tends to break a lot of things as a result), Thomas can bend his body into various shapes and fit anywhere and Max possesses epic skills with knives. When the only home they all have ever known is in danger, they decide to get down to the bottom of this mystery and find out who is causing the deaths.

The mystery aspects of this book were fantastically done but one of my favorite things was how the 1930s setting was weaved into the book. Oliver doesn’t focus too much on the time period but there are little details that make it evident that the book is set in a time around the great depression. The time period is not forgotten but introduced into the story in little ways that make it all the more interesting.

ALSO the illustrations in this book are GORGEOUS.

I’d definitely recommend this book to readers who love a little bit of magic and mystery. This is a fun read that won’t fail to charm your socks off.

Note that I received an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review
September 21, 2022
Wow, what an amazing read! So glad I finally picked it up, I’ve had it forever. This completes prompt 1 for Series September(hosted by BooksAndJams & Sarah’s Nightstand on YT)too: start a series. This was dark at times, while at the same time being heartwarming. Brilliantly done. This gives me gothic vibes..maybe even American Horror Story vibes(just vibes, it’s not the same at all),but with kids in NY, & historical fiction atmosphere lol. This big house that they live in & work in, since it’s also the “museum”, is atmospheric itself, then the vivid details of NYC & these amazing MCs(& even side characters)-SO GOOD! This is yet another 1 that does the multi 3rd person POV, & I of course enjoyed that so much as usual. Each kid is so different in every way. Not just their different “talents”, but their personalities, feelings, etc. And I adore all of these kids. The stolen shrunken head, & the mystery surrounding it & it’s possible curse was so gripping. Between the murders, their guardian Mr. Dumfrey getting in trouble, the reporter writing horrible things about the kids(& in turn the public treating them horrible, calling them “freaks”), & the danger/adventure/suspense as we go along with the kids to try & solve it all….all of these things & more made for a very fast-paced, suspenseful, dark, atmospheric, imaginative read. The found family vibes are superb in here, & just get better & better throughout as the kids become even closer on their quest for the truth. So many twists & turns. Then the bombshells revealed towards the end?!?! Wowza! Loved every bit of this. Amazing humor as well-dark humor & regular lol. Also, great messages woven into the story. What makes someone the real “freak” or “monster”? Someone that is a kind, & great person overall, but just happens to be “different “ in some way? Or a seemingly “normal” person, who is actually evil on the inside & hides their true selves. The answer is obvious, but the way people sometimes behave, you would think not. Highly recommend. STUNNING cover & illustrations throughout by Benjamin Lacombe too.💜

Profile Image for Pradnya Paramitha.
Author 14 books326 followers
May 3, 2021
Ternyata baca buku anak-anak itu seru juga 😂 awalnya ragu, tapi karena ingat Lockwood & Co juga sebenarnya buku anak-anak, dan itu seru, akhirnya kucoba baca buku ini. Niatnya beli 1 dulu, eh malah kepo kan sama 2 jilid selanjutnya 😂

Buku berkisah tentang anak-anak luar biasa dari Museum aneh tapi nyata Dumfrey. Ada Thomas di lentur yang genius, Pippa si mentalis yang sedikit pendiam, Sam si kuat yang hobi minta maaf, dan Max si pelempar jitu yang kasar. Awal masalah ketika salah satu artefak andalan mereka "Kepala Mengerut" dicuri. Berikutnya semakin mencekam karena orang-orang yang pernah melihat kepala itu malah dibunuhi.

Aku suka bagaimana mereka mengejar kebenaran dengan cara yang sangat anak-anak. Beberapa bikin aku mengerut "Lah kok mereka malah gitu sih? Ih, bodoh banget kenapa malah bilang gitu?", terus aku ingat kalo mereka memang masih anak-anak, dan itu jadi masuk akal.

Ada yang sedikit membingungkan. Awalnya terasa ada bau-bau percikan love story (tapi tipiiiiss banget karena ini buku anak-anak, ingat?) antara Sam dan Pippa. Seenggaknya, Sam kayak punya perasaan aneh ke Pippa. Nah, tapi kayak ujug-ujug aja, Sam malah digambarkan punya perasaan khusus ke Max, dan sebaliknya. Apa perasaan anak-anak memang semudah itu berubah, ya? 🤔

Aku punya tebakan pelaku di awal. Tebakanku ini, ada salahnya dan ada benarnya 😂 maksudnya, tebakanku benar, tapi ternyata dia cuma pion dari penjahat yang sebenarnya. Wkwkw macam.dapat plot twist dari intrik-intrik politik.

Intinya sih, buku ini seru. Nggak sabar nunggu 2 jilid lainnya.
Profile Image for Rif.
278 reviews33 followers
December 16, 2017
Aku merekomendasikan buku ini pada para penggemar bacaan middle grade yang ingin bacaan ringan dan menghibur :)
Ceritanya tentang petualangan 4 (empat) anak berkemampuan aneh: Thomas si lentur, Philippa sang mentalis, Sam si kuat, dan Max sang pelempar. Mereka tinggal di Museum Aneh tapi Nyata Dumfrey, di mana mereka melakukan pertunjukan (semacam) sirkus dari waktu ke waktu.

Pak Dumfrey ini tidak hanya menampung berbagai macam orang aneh, tapi juga beragam artefak misterius, dari sarkofagus firaun hingga sayap peri asli. Namun kali ini, Pak Dumfrey mendapat satu artefak menakutkan yang menarik minat penduduk kota: Kepala Mengerut milik Kepala Suku Ticuna-Piranha!

Kepala mengerut inilah sumber kutukan yang memulai petualangan Thomas, Pippa, Sam,
dan Max. Entah bagaimana, kepala mengerut itu hilang dari tempat penyimpanan. Kemudian satu per satu, siapa pun yang berhubungan dengan kepala mengerut itu, mati.

Namun apa pun yang terjadi, mereka harus mendapatkan kepala mengerut itu kembali sebab artefak itu adalah satu-satunya peluang bagi Pak Dumfrey untuk menyelamatkan Museum Aneh tapi Nyata.

Ini kisah tentang sekelompok anak yang melindungi museum tempat mereka bernaung dan menyelamatkan orang-orang yang telah mereka anggap sebagai keluarga.
Sebenarnya aku agak bingung ini bisa masuk kategori fantasi atau tidak, tapi memang ada sedikit elemen sains fiksi di dalamnya. Yang pasti, ini adalah buku middle grade yang sudah lama aku rindu.

Membaca buku ini mengingatkanku akan The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events) dan Lima Sekawan: Patung Dewa Aneh, penuh misteri tapi juga ramai petualangan seru.

Selain itu, karakter-karakternya pun khas dan lovable. Aku suka keempatnya, tapi paling berkesan mungkin.. Max, karena dia gahar tapi nggak tahu beda penggunaan kata 'tidak' dan 'bukan' (dan Pippa sering geregetan membetulkannya).

Bisa dibilang, membaca buku ini rasanya seperti membaca The Screaming Staircase, tapi L0ckwood-Lucy-George sepertinya sudah agak lebih young adult. Aku juga jadi teringat sedikit kekecewaan yang kurasa saat membaca Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children karena tidak sekelam yang kuduga (ulasan), dan buku ini berhasil mengobatiku!

Duh, nggak bagus sih memang membandingkan satu buku dengan buku lain.. tapi buku ini memang semenarik itu dan aku sudah lama tidak menemukan middle grade yang seperti ini, bahkan Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians nggak seringan ini (setelah diterjemahkan). Pokoknya, recommended!

P.S. I think, anyone who defines Lauren Oliver solely based on Delirium was so wrong. Liesl & Po is a masterpiece, she should write more middle grade stories. I am a fan!

Oh iya, mau tepuk tangan juga buat penerjemahnya Lulu Fitri Rahman karena kalimatnya mengalir banget tapi agak gatel sih kenapa Sam dan Pippa harus meneriakkan kata SETOP dan bukannya STOP di halaman 258 ^^
Profile Image for Michelle .
466 reviews116 followers
July 29, 2016
My Review:
I never read a Lauren Oliver book before and I am not sure why. I absolutely loved this story and the cover is fantastic. This book is a lot of fun to read and the 4 main characters in this book make this book a great read. The story is told in 4 different POVs Pippa, Max, Thomas & Sam. The kids live at Dumbfrey's Dime Museum as one of the attraction. Each kid has a special talent  that is unique, most of the oddities at the museum are like side show performers but the kids are different. Pippa was my favorite, she was just so much fun to read about and I just loved her personality. Max was my least favorite, I understood why she was the way she was but it kind of got on my nerves. This book has a lot of secondary characters that just brought the story alive. I really liked it, if you can't tell. :)

The story revolves around a murder mystery, someone is killing people but everyone thinks its a curse from a Shrunken Head that Mr Dumbfrey recently acquired. When things get crazy it's up to the four kids to help solve the mystery and save the museum. The story was great and has some very funny moment. I really enjoyed how the mystery unraveled it kept me guessing the entire time, just when I thought I knew who it was it turned out to be someone else. I am really eager to read the next in this series and can see a lot more will happen to the 4 main characters. I enjoyed the world build and loved the character development. The kids each still have a lot more to there stories and I can't wait to find out more.

I highly recommend this book, Great characters, awesome story and just a fun read. I look forward to reading more books from Lauren Oliver. This is a great book for MG, Teens, YA and Adults...just about anyone that loves to read. :)

Thank you so much for stopping by to check out my review

Hope you have a great day and Happy Reading!

Name2014 This review was originally posted on Because reading is better than real life
Profile Image for Kelly (Diva Booknerd).
1,106 reviews299 followers
July 3, 2017
I haven't always had the best author reader relationship with Lauren Oliver. I enjoyed her Delirium series, but both Before I Fall and Panic were books that I had so many issues with. Her new foray into middle grade with The Curiosity House series is a complete success and I enjoyed every moment. There is something so utterly lovely about a well written and adventurous middle grade series and installment one, The Shrunken Head, shows exactly why the young and young at heart are enamored by the genre. It follow the story of three orphans in twelve year old Sam, Pippa and Thomas who are about to be joined by new resident Max. The four children have extraordinary abilities and are among the headline acts at Dumfrey's Dime Museum, but business hasn't been as prosperous of late and without the shrunken head, they will be forced to close.

The storyline although character driven, also features an old world charm to the New York location. Dime Museums were popular during the middle Nineteenth century as a form of entertainment for the working class. Most were little more than trickery in order to give patrons a cheap thrill, which also seems to be the case with Mister Dumfrey, with the exception of the four children of course.

One of the main aspects that also draws me into reading middle grade are the illustrations. Whether it just be chapter pages or full page illustrations, it only adds to the magical reading experience and The Shrunken head was no different. The monochrome illustrations scattered throughout were absolutely lovely, I especially loved the imitation performer advertisement posters. So lovely and vintage.

Even being a longer middle grade read, the storyline is not only wonderfully written but well paced. A mixture of old world charm, mystery and cheekiness that middle grade and early young adult readers will be enchanted by.

The Shrunken Head is a brilliant first installment in what will no doubt be an incredible new middle grade adventure series. Mixing old world charm and a motley crew of weird and wonderful characters, it's wonderfully written and the mystery will thrill and delight readers with it's sense of fun and lighthearted humour. Perfect for older middle grade or primary school readers and early young adult readers alike. I can't wait to for the next installment in The Curiosity House series. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Profile Image for ellemaddy.
526 reviews41 followers
August 1, 2016
Ah, here I am again. I found myself always attracted to read books with pretty covers and a famous author and The Shrunken Head has all that, and most of the time sadly I am left unimpressed by the story. I had no idea what it had in store when I started reading it because I don’t really read the summary on gr but I know that it’s a children book (pretty obvious from the cover, title, etc.)

The Shrunken Head is about four orphan kids who live in a museum of wonders. Think about American Horror Story: Circus but about children and without all the weird sex stuff. There is Thomas, the boy who could bend his body like rubber and could get into the air shaft and spy on people(?), Pippa who is a mentalist (but could only so far know about the content of your pocket, not your mind), Sam, the strongest boy alive, and Max, the famous sarcastic, illiterate knife thrower. Their life changed when one day they were performing and a lady passed out after seeing the shrunken head and died later on. They started getting hounded by the press (some smarmy guy named Evans) and people started dying, some said from the curse of the shrunken head which had gone missing after the lady died.

Some characters in the book reminds me of those from Harry Potter (could it be because I was also reading Harry Potter at the same time I read this?). Like Dumfrey reminded me of Dumbledore and Potts reminded me of Filch….

Moving on…
Everytime I read children’s book I always found myself gritting my teeth because there’s always that one scene that just make me want to punch the wall, usually the heroines nearly caught the bad guy but then missed and they got all disappointed and one of them would be like, ‘don’t worry we’ll catch him next time!’ then the book ended, proceed to book two please. It’s so frustrating because they all had this power but they’re hopeless because they’re just a bunch of kids! Maybe i’m getting a bit too old for this. The mystery in this book really keeps you guessing, though, I’ll give you that. And although the ending isn’t very satisfying and I don’t really find myself liking this book enough to give it 4 stars, but I think it’s not really that bad that it deserve 2 or 1 star. It just didn’t leave an impression on me, so perhaps it’s a matter of age and taste. I think kids will love this book just fine.
August 13, 2016
At Dumfrey's Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders, a person can see many unusual things. like relics, mummies, a bearded lady and more. It's 1930 New York City and everyone is intrigued by the items found at the museum, especially with the arrival of the new Amazonian shrunken head. Philippa, Sam, Pippa and Max are all orphans and live at the museum, but they aren't like other children. They all have extraordinary abilities, which makes them part of the appeal at the museum. Things start to get serious though when a customer suddenly dies after seeing the Amazonian shrunken head. Then they come to find the head has been stolen right from underneath them. Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester's Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head is a fun start to an quirky middle grade series filled with mystery and adventure.

Read the rest of my review here:
Profile Image for Randee.
815 reviews32 followers
June 1, 2016
I enjoyed reading this story. I especially love the drawings/illustrations. I think this is a good mystery for the pre-teenager. Anyone older may find it a bit more style over substance. However, I do think this shows a great deal of promise as a series. This being the first one, I think this is a novel situation that can grow into its own in the future. I think this is a bit too tame for teenagers. But for the young at heart, I think there is an old fashioned innocence mixed with a lot of empathy for those who are different and I wouldn't bet against this becoming a classic series in the mode of the Bobbsey Twins.
Profile Image for Cristi-Lael.
981 reviews18 followers
July 9, 2019
This is one of the most beautiful middle grade books I've seen. The hardback version has a lovely dust jacket and also some pretty art on the book itself. But the artwork inside the book is my favorite. Such great illustrations.
The story is really good as well. A very nice middle grade mystery with a supernatural flair. I really enjoyed it and look forward to where the series is going. Plus, I think my daughters are going to really enjoy reading it as well.
Profile Image for Kara.
539 reviews168 followers
November 26, 2016
This one was just okay for me. Everything felt rushed and too easy to figure out. I liked the writing enough, and generally there is more telling than showing in middle grade (and I totally get that), but this felt like it went above and beyond. I felt the same way about Oliver's other middle grade novel, Liesl and Po, as well.

Profile Image for Ratna Sari.
308 reviews12 followers
June 26, 2018

"Kita orang aneh dari Museum Aneh tapi Nyata Dumfrey, kan? Artinya, kita istimewa." (hlm. 143)
Jadi, Museum Aneh tapi Nyata Dumfrey ini adalah sebuah museum pada umumnya yang menyimpan koleksi benda-benda bersejarah. Namun, sesuai dengan namanya, benda-benda yg ada di museum ini memang aneh, termasuk salah satu benda terbarunya yaitu Kepala Mengerut dari Amazon. Selain itu, Museum ini jg menampilkan pertunjukkan dari orang-orang yg unik (a.ka "aneh" dlm hal fisik & kemampuan). Perpaduan antara sulap dan sirkus.
Tak hanya berfantasi membayangkan Museum Aneh tapi Nyata Dumfrey ini, ternyata buku ini juga mengajak pembacanya untuk menyelidiki sebuah kasus yaitu hilangnya Kepala Mengerut. Yang membuatnya semakin seram, Kepala Mengerut tersebut membawa kutukan 😨
Membaca buku ini mengingatkanku pada penyelidikan lima sekawannya Enid Bylton, penyelidikan detektif ala anak-anak. Karna di buku ini yg menyelidiki kasusnya adl empat anak penghuni Museum Dumfrey yaitu Thomas, Philippa, Sam & Max. Yang membuatnya berbeda adl kemampuan "unik" yg dimiliki oleh mereka (Aku bayangin "Fantastic Four" deh 😅😅 hehe). Nah, dengan keunikan keempat tokohnya ini mengajarkan bahwa jgn mengganggap remeh orang-orang yg "unik".
Yang membuat buku ini semakin menegangkan dan horor, adalah di setiap mereka mengarah ke salah satu "suspect" akan berakhir pada kematian suspect tersebut. Jadi, selalu buntu. Serem kan? 😨
Baru kali ini aku membaca "children book" yg kumplit, ada fantasi, misteri, detektif, dan horor. Aku nggak tahu sih gimana pengaruhnya bagi pembaca yg masih anak-anak, tapi bagiku buku ini membawa pengalaman yg berbeda dan AKU SANGAT SUKA 😍😍 Yang menjadikan buku ini salah satu book children favoritku.
Profile Image for Eye of Sauron.
389 reviews36 followers
February 3, 2018
I loved this book at the beginning. The back cover is fantastically eccentric, and the strange and weirdness-infested introduction and setting are enough to make the darkest of Dark Lords feel a little bit of creepy curious magical energy.

The wonder (and perhaps the novelty) wore off, though, as the novel progressed, and the elements of mystery faded into explanations decidedly less attractive as cliché after cliché popped up in the dialogue, and every plot "twist" was visible from at least fifty pages away.

The oddity of the museum is delightfully entertaining, but like the other inexplicable elements, it faded away as the story progressed and transformed into a generic kids' detective story. By the end, it was obvious it was meant to be the first of a series, complete with a "cliffhanger ending" and enough loose threads to spin a follow-up story. But I just wasn't hooked, sorry. I don't really care anymore after the characters lost their distinctiveness.

A few more people wind up dead than one might expect from a kids' story, though. Although since all the twists were telegraphed, there is zero shock factor there anyway.

Would recommend for younger readers who haven't had enough experience with mystery novels to guess the ending, for whom I'm giving three stars instead of two (because I think I would have really enjoyed it if I hadn't read many similar stories before ... and were considerably younger).
Profile Image for Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard.
1,144 reviews244 followers
May 8, 2020
This was so much fun! It was kinda dark and murder-y for a middle grade but that made it different from a lot of other middle grades. The mystery even kept me guessing and I freaking loved the "you make family" sentiment of the cast. I can't believe I got the whole series on Book Outlet for under $10 CAD! So freaking worth it!
Profile Image for Cathy .
1,944 reviews52 followers
November 4, 2015
Lauren Oliver is really Laura Schechter (check the copywrite) and she wrote this with Harold Schechter, so I'm presuming he's her dad, who is a well known true crime and mystery author (primarily, he's really versatile, and seems quite impressive). It could be a brother also named Harold, or some random guy with the same last name, but I think it's a fair assumption that it's her father. It makes sense that they'd want to do a book together and make it a young adult mystery, a combination of their areas of expertise. And it kind of worked. It's charming. The kids are appealing. Their situation living in the museum and being different from other people is one that should resonate with kids. It just missed the mark for me on some levels.

It was a bit simplistic for a middle grade book. I can't figure out who the audience is. This is a long book, 360 pages, and the kids are twelve-ish (at least two are, I didn't notice the other two), so on the surface it should be for older tweens to teens. But the story felt kind of dumbed down, more the kind of straightforward story I'd read in an early reader book. More Betsy-Tacy than Wrinkle In Time even. Though a more innocent tone is charming for a historical book (it appears to be the later 1930s, post Depression, pre-war) it still has to appeal to the probably-too-sophisticated kids of today. Not that I want them to be too grown up, not at all! But kids are used to more complex storytelling, more layers, more complex emotions from the kids in their stories, more difficult challenges, more interesting mysteries. The language/vocabulary isn't particularly scaled back, just the storytelling. More Magic Tree House than Harry Potter. Which is totally fine, a book aimed more at 8-10 year-olds would be great, if it seemed like a book younger kids could/would read. But it seems too difficult or long for any but the more advanced younger kids. Maybe I'm wrong and kids all over of all ages are loving it, that would be great. I was just surprised at the lack of sophistication in the story and the mystery. And the answers to the mystery came out of nowhere, it was annoying that the kids had no chance to have actually solved it.

The cover is really wonderful, back and front and inside flap. Sometimes illustrations are better than pictures. Lots of romance and urban fantasy covers prove that lately, I'm not always a fan of some of the covers with models. The wrong picture sucks when you feel like you know exactly what the character looks like because the author described them so well. The sketches on the back of this book were so expressive of their personalities, as were the silhouettes inside the front flap. And the front cover is all of that plus gorgeous, both quirkily charming and a little bit spookily at the same time. And the rest on the back, the text, is funny, quite cleverly different than the more stranded description inside the front flap. It's definitely the kind of cover that sells books, all around. Whoever designed this one did a terrific job, I'd pick this out for a gift based on just seeing this in a book store, or want to buy it for myself. And the interior art is really enjoyable as well. It really adds a lot to the book.

So, I liked the book, I just found it confusing. It felt like a book that could have been published decades ago. If it was just an old-fashioned style that might not be a problem, some kids might be enchanted by a historical book. I'm just not sure the book is consistently appropriate for it's target audience, I found it confusing based on it's length, the level of storytelling and other elements.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,814 reviews
September 27, 2015

The Shrunken Head is a middle grade mystery. It is the first book in The Curiosity House series.

It features four remarkable orphans (all around 12 years old): Pippa, Sam, Thomas and Max. Pippa is a mentalist (she can tell what is in people's pockets). Sam is the world’s strongest boy. Thomas can squeeze himself into small spaces. And Max (girl) is an amazing knife-thrower. They perform and live at Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders.

This book is MG, which is not really my normal reading. Although I do read a lot of Young Adult. I really like some of Lauren Oliver's other books. So that is why I wanted to read this book.

I did really enjoy the kids performing. They were all incredibly talented and it was amazing to read about what they could do. I also thought that the mystery was a very cute idea.

Mr Dumfrey owns and runs a crazy museum. He gets a new exhibit, a shrunken head. It goes missing. And subsequently all kinds of craziness and disasters occur (including accidents and murders).

The four kids try to solve the mystery. This part of the story was interesting. And I liked the mishaps they got into while trying to figure things out.

However, the book has third person narration. And the POVs change a lot. Truthfully I struggled to figure out who was talking. And I really don't think that this should be the case for a MG book.

I don't know that the time period the book is set in is listed. Although I've seen some people say it is the 1930s, which feels right. I think this might be part of the reason why I had a hard time finishing this book. I would have rather that it was made clear when this book was taking place.

There is so much description about the museum. Too much description. And almost 400 pages for a middle grade book seemed like too much to me.

I think that kids who are 10-13 might enjoy this mystery. However, there are a lot of murders. So I am not sure how appropriate the book would be for younger kids. The book is obviously targeted to kids. And the murders aren't overly gory. But I don't think I would recommend this to those under 10.

The ending was good. There was an explanation re: the murderer and an explanation re: the kids. Also there was a twist that I liked (and didn't guess). Overall, this was a cute middle grade mystery.

Thanks to edelweiss and HarperCollins for allowing me to read this book.
Profile Image for Jessica.
1,160 reviews81 followers
October 17, 2015
Let it be known that I can't resist a middle grade book at the best of times, but if it's by Lauren Oliver there's no question it will end up on my reading list! She charmed me with Liesl & Po, made me shiver with The Spindlers, and left no doubt in my mind that I'd pick up any middle grade book she puts forth. There are certain authors who just understand what a book for this age group needs. A pinch of madness, a few drops of magic, some interesting history, and the type of characters who steal your heart before you even know it's gone. This book is all of that, and it's wonderful.

Charming, is probably the best word to describe Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head. Honestly, it's hard not to smile as you read the first few pages. Pippa, Sam, Thomas and Max are quite the cast of characters. Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders is a setting all its own. Add in a smattering of 1930's history, and you have the perfect stage for a wonderful story. I'll warn you now that this story is a bit on the darker side. Think Lemony Snicket. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, and sometimes it's a little gruesome. Still, at the end of the day we all know how things wrap up. These are my favorite kinds of stories. The kind that doesn't shy away from the darker parts of life, but embraces them as truth.

Am I rambling? Probably! I don't want to spoil anything, because this book is just so much fun! The mystery is probably the best part of this whole package. As if our plucky and talented young characters weren't amazing enough on their own, this story pits them against one heck of a mystery. When the prized possession of Dumfrey's goes missing, and all the people involved start to die in mysterious ways, what do you do? If you're Pippa, Sam, Thomas and Max you set off on an adventure to figure out what's going on. Possibly putting yourself in mortal danger at the same time.

This is a great story. Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head is completely charming from the writing on the page, to the stunning illustrations, and it will definitely make you want to come back for more. What are you waiting for? Go add this to your reading list. It's definitely worth your time.
Profile Image for Ensiform.
1,337 reviews134 followers
February 20, 2016
In Depression-era New York City, four exceptional and quirky orphans who live in a freak show find themselves embroiled in a mystery after the show’s shrunken head is stolen. When innocent people start dying off, all somehow related to the head, there is a media sensation, and their own guarder and the museum’s proprietor is arrested on suspicion of murder. Of course, there is a deeper secret, one concerning the strangely powerful and talented kids’ origins, and they find that they are the ones in real danger. Aside from the trappings of the milieu in which it is set, this is perhaps not the most original setup, but told well (except for the authors’ over-fondness for similes); the characters are fully developed and there are twists and turns that keep the reader engaged. The ending, in which the main villain makes an attack that is desultory and poorly planned compared to the Machivellian web spun over the course of the book, is doubtless meant to pave the way for a sequel, but is disappointing.
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