I didn’t expect a children’s book to make me cry, but I didn’t see The Great Brain coming, and I got blindsided.

John D. Fitzgerald shares embellished, maybe-true stories from his childhood, most of them involving his older brother Tom, whose “great brain” helps him figure out all sorts of things. Sometimes Tom’s great brain helps him con all the neighborhood kids out a penny apiece to see the first water closet in southern Utah, and sometimes Tom puts his great brain to use getting the new mean teacher fired. On a few occasions too, he uses his great brain to help people other than himself.

This one was a recommendation from my manager at the bookstore. I picked up a copy as it came through the store and enjoyed the first few chapters.
I expected a feel-good kid’s story about a boy and his older brother growing up in southern Utah.
I did not expect to become emotionally invested in The Great Brain.


The stories are just fictional enough to keep you wondering what the heck might happen next. They’re also real enough to make you ask yourself if they really happened to Fitzgerald as a kid.

Now, I’m not going to ruin the book. I need you to go and read it for yourself to feel the emotional trauma I felt at the end, but I will tell you that it’s worth the read, it will change the way you look at really smart problem children, and it will probably make you cry.

5 stars. Would recommend to anyone, young or old, well-read or not, Utahan or not (though the stories do make more sense if you’re somewhat familiar with Utah).

Don’t give away the ending if you comment, but let me know if you also did this after reading The Great Brain: