PHINEAS GAGE by John Fleischman
Kirkus Star


A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science
Age Range: 11 - 13
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Gruesome indeed: in 1848, an explosion blew a 13-pound iron rod through railroad worker Gage’s head. Not only did he survive, he never even lost consciousness, going on to become a medical marvel and to live almost another dozen years. Was Gage lucky, or just the opposite? Carefully separating fact from legend, Fleischman traces Gage’s subsequent travels and subtle but profound personality changes, then lets readers decide. Writing in present tense, which sometimes adds immediacy, other times just comes across as artificial, Fleischman fleshes out the tale with looks at mid-19th-century medicine, the history of brain science, and how modern researchers have reconstructed Gage’s accident with high-tech tools. He also adds eye-widening photos of Gage’s actual skull (now at Harvard), his life mask, and dramatic rod-through-bone computer images that, as the author writes, will make you wince “whether you’re a brain surgeon or a sixth grader.” Readers compelled to know more—and that should be just about everyone—will find a helpful, annotated list of print and electronic sources at the end of this riveting (so to speak) study. (index, glossary) (Nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 25th, 2002
ISBN: 0-618-05252-6
Page count: 96pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2002


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