FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester


What you will find in this book:

– A rather attractive bearded lady
– Several scandalous murders
– A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head
– Four extraordinary children with equally extraordinary abilities
– A quite loquacious talking bird

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-
thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

This sensational new series combines the unparalleled storytelling gifts of Lauren Oliver with the rich
knowledge of the notorious relics collector H.C. Chester.

What you will NOT find in this book:

– An accountant named Seymour
– A never-ending line at the post office
– Brussel sprouts (shudder)
– A lecture on finishing all your homework on time
– A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys.


I can safely say that I haven't ever read a book quite like this one.  While I have read stories about people with unique features or abilities I haven't seen them combined in a story the way this one is.  The characters are definitely unique: Thomas who can bend and fit into really small places as well as do remarkable math problems in his head, Pippa who can see what is in other people's pockets and sometimes read minds, Sam, a skinny kid who's incredibly, dangerously strong, and Max, an incredible artist with her throwing thieves and sometimes pickpocket.  The other people who live in the Musuem of Oddities with them also have unique characteristics (Hugo, the 'elephant' man, Smalls, the 'giant').  The reasons for the children's unique abilities though surprised me and threw an interesting twist into this developing series.  The challenges the children face involve a missing exhibit that was intended to keep a roof over their heads, a murdered janitor, and unpleasant media attention all threaten the 'home' the children have at the museum.  And when the museum's owner, Mr. Dumfrey is accused of murder, the children determine that it's up to them to find answers. 

I wasn't sure I was going to like this at first because the characters are so odd, and I don't mean their abilities.  Max is rather hostile, Sam is very shy and love animals, Thomas's ability to squeeze into small places made me a bit squeamish, and Pippa isn't always nice.  But as I kept reading, I did develop an affection for these children who find themselves in difficult situations only some of which are of their own making.  Middle grade readers who enjoy reading Ripley's Believe It or Not or other weird fact books just might find this a rather intriguing mystery, especially some of the rather unusual things that the children do in the course of the book (such as visiting a morgue).


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