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The Great Brain

post written by Emma Filbrun

Title: The Great Brain
Author: John D. Fitzgerald
Series: Great Brain, book 1
Major Themes: Utah, Boys, Books for Boys
Synopsis: As three brothers grow up in a small town in Utah around 1900, the middle brother uses his great brain to make a profit for himself in every way possible.

The Great Brain was a book that I bought without knowing much of anything about it. I bought it because Sonlight Curriculum was using it, so I decided to take a chance. When one of the boys chose it, they suddenly had a new favorite series. I’m still not sure what I think about these books. All of us keep hoping TD and his great brain will get his comeuppance.

The narrator, John D, or JD, who shares a name with the author, is about eight years old. He has two older brothers, Sweyn and Tom, or SD and TD. Tom is the brother with a great brain, which he constantly sets to work to figure out puzzles and how to get what he wants. JD, with his little brain, admires his big brother and is always amazed at how TD can explain his schemes in such a way that they make perfect sense!

The first chapter sets the stage for the series. Papa is the most progressive man in Adenville, Utah. When he sees a new invention in a catalog, he orders it—this time it is a water closet, which he has installed in their house. How will TD turn this to his profit? It works—till Mama finds out what he’s doing! All through the book, TD is scheming to get what he wants—his brother’s genuine Indian belt, a puppy to sell, cash from the new immigrants in town, revenge on the teacher…. And then, at the end, he goes through a miraculous transformation!

I found the setting of this story particularly interesting. As I mentioned, it is set in a small town in Utah. Most of the town’s residents are Mormons; the Fitzgerald family are Protestants. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book set among the Mormons of Utah. I also enjoyed reading about a family of boys, since we have a number of them in our house. We are enjoying reading about Tom’s escapades, at the same time that we’re disgusted with his manipulation.

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