Readers fond of the gruesome and grotesque with a heavy dose of humor will find much to enjoy here.



This gleefully macabre mix of history and science relates true stories about the mysterious fates of body parts from the famous and infamous.

Told in frequently grisly detail are tales about King Pedro of Portugal, who had the corpse of his dead love crowned as his queen; Vincent Van Gogh, who sent his ear to a woman he admired; the thefts of Franz Josef Haydn’s head and Albert Einstein’s brain; the heart of Percy Bysshe Shelley, which would not burn when his body was cremated; how actress Sarah Bernhardt put her amputated leg in storage; and how a wart removed from Elvis Presley in 1958 is now in the possession of the owner of one of the world’s largest Elvis memorabilia collections. In addition, Beccia dispenses such grimly fascinating facts as: that the skins of hanged criminals were sometimes tanned and made into such articles as belts, bags, boots, and fancy book covers; that teeth extracted from corpses were used to make dentures; and that local executioners made extra money selling the fat of hanged criminals to make candles and soap. Beccia’s light, cheeky approach to the subject matter is tailor-made for a middle-grade audience: “See, bodies are a lot like egg-salad sandwiches—the colder they’re kept, the less likely they will stink over time.” The author’s wry, black-and-white cartoons are of a piece with both tone and content.

Readers fond of the gruesome and grotesque with a heavy dose of humor will find much to enjoy here. (bibliography, source notes) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8027-3745-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of.



Part browsing item, part therapy for the afflicted, this catalog of irrational terrors offers a little help along with a lot of pop psychology and culture.

The book opens with a clinical psychologist’s foreword and closes with a chapter of personal and professional coping strategies. In between, Latta’s alphabetically arranged encyclopedia introduces a range of panic-inducers from buttons (“koumpounophobia”) and being out of cellphone contact (“nomophobia”) to more widespread fears of heights (“acrophobia”), clowns (“coulroiphobia”) and various animals. There’s also the generalized “social anxiety disorder”—which has no medical name but is “just its own bad self.” As most phobias have obscure origins (generally in childhood), similar physical symptoms and the same approaches to treatment, the descriptive passages tend toward monotony. To counter that, the author chucks in references aplenty to celebrity sufferers, annotated lists of relevant books and (mostly horror) movies, side notes on “joke phobias” and other topics. At each entry’s end, she contributes a box of “Scare Quotes” such as a passage from Coraline for the aforementioned fear of buttons.

Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of. (end notes, resource list) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-936976-49-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Zest Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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A loud, cynical cash grab—far from amazing.



A couple more YouTube stars write a book.

Howell, who goes by "danisnotonfire," and "AmazingPhil" Lester are the latest YouTube stars hoping to cross over to the world of books. Instead of crafting a memoir or adapting their videos into a fictional series, the duo have filled these 225 pages with bold graphics, scatological humor, and quirky how tos that may entice their fan base but will leave everyone else out in the cold. It contains a wide variety of nonsense, ranging from Phil's chat logs to information on breeding hamsters. There's an emoji-only interview and some Dan/Phil fanfiction (by Howell rather than a fan) and even a full double-page spread of the pair's unsuccessful selfies. All this miscellany is shoveled in without much rhyme or reason following introductory pages that clearly introduce the pair as children, leaving readers who aren't in on the joke completely out of the loop. The authors make no attempt to bring in those on the outside, but in all honesty, why should they? The only people buying this book are kids who already love everything Dan and Phil do or clueless relatives in desperate search of a gift for the awkward teens in their lives. The book's biggest fault is its apparent laziness. It feels like something slapped together over a weekend, with no heart or soul.   

A loud, cynical cash grab—far from amazing. (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-93984-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2015

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