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. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018



In 1910, Pascal D’Angelo and his father left the harsh Abruzzi region of Italy to escape its impossible poverty and journey to the United States; Pascal was 16 years old. Murphy, a graceful narrator of history, presents the life of the peasant as he journeyed through life in the new country. He never became wealthy or even comfortable, but did leave an impression with his poetry—and this from a man who became literate in English as an adult, largely self-taught (and librarians will be delighted to know that they helped him). D’Angelo also wrote an autobiography, Son of Italy, relating to life as an immigrant and the hard—largely pick-and-shovel—work he did to earn a scant living. Such a telling should resonate when readers think about why people come to a new country where they do not speak the language, do not know the customs, and too often are alone, even (or especially) today. The protagonist does not come through as a sharp personality; he is somewhat shadowy against the times and places of his life. He stands out as a symbol rather than a full person. But his accomplishments are certainly large. Archival photos are interesting but sometimes captions are non-indicative; what do they mean? When and where were they taken? There are two photos of D’Angelo. As usual, Murphy provides details that help set the story. A biography of a common man that is also the history of a civilization and its times. (index and bibliography) (Biography. 9-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-395-77610-4

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000



In her first book for young readers, personal-finance expert Chatzky offers straight talk on all things related to money—where it came from, how it’s made, how to earn it and how to save it, everything from gross domestic product to gross viruses on paper money. Having spent three months traveling the country and talking with kids, the author presents questions and answers in a volume attractively designed in a kid-friendly manner, with plenty of illustrations, charts, lists and sidebars for fun facts and kids’ questions. One thing not learned on the trip, apparently, was not to take all middle-school students’ answers at face value, as readers will see wise-guy responses, illogical explanations and self-centered comments mixed in with the mostly thoughtful and sincere questions and statements. Still, the clear and conversational text, coupled with the inviting format, will appeal to young readers, who should enjoy learning about a subject important to them. (appendices, map, glossary, web resources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4169-9472-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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