They Lost Their Heads! Washington’s Teeth, Einstein’s Brain, and Other Famous Body Parts

Carlyn Beccia. Bloomsbury, $18.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8027-3745-8
In this quirky, clever compendium, Beccia (Fashion Rebels) digs through history to unearth stories about the posthumous fates of notorious individuals’ body parts. These include Galileo’s fingers, vertebra, and a molar, purloined by men tasked with moving his body to a more prestigious spot a century after his death; Franz Joseph Haydn’s head, swiped from his newly interred coffin for scientists to study; Sarah Bernhardt’s leg, amputated after an onstage fall and preserved in a French medical school’s storage room; and Thomas Alva Edison’s literal last breath, captured in a vial and sent to the inventor’s closest friend, Henry Ford. The author’s chatty, irreverent narrative profiles each highlighted luminary and offers supplementary info on such topics as embalming, phrenology, and cryonics—and ample doses of downright creepy, kid-pleasing trivia. Footnotes contain some factual clarification, but largely provide off-the-cuff commentary that will further engage readers (comparing John Wilkes Booth to a “Hollywood A-lister” of today, Beccia adds, via footnote, “Ryan Gosling also happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to Booth”). Etching-like period illustrations echo the macabre underpinnings of the text and its playfully subversive tone. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2018
Release date: 04/03/2018
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-8027-3747-2
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