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by Kathleen Karr

Published by Hyperion, 2000
227 pages
ISBN: 0-7868-2439-5

Ages 9 - 13

Left to fend for himself in 1839 after his parents and siblings die, twelve-year-old Matthew Morrissey takes a job with Dr. Asa B. Cornwall, a phrenologist who "reads" people's skulls. While Matthew is grateful for the doctor's kindness and for the food, shelter, and education that come with his new position, he soon learns that he's expected to dig up graves at night to get skulls for the doctor's intellectual pursuits, something he finds incredibly distasteful. Dr. Cornwall such an engaging and nurturing character, however, that Matthew can't help but get caught up in his work, especially as he strives to acquire the skulls of great dead men of their times, such as Aaron Burr, Voltaire, and -- the greatest head of all -- Napoleon Bonaparte. But all throughout their journeys in America and Europe to seek out the graves of the famous, a mysterious and threatening person seems to be following them. Who can it be? And what does he want? This deliciously eerie historical mystery has a strong plot, lots of action, marvelously off-beat characters, and just the right touch of macabre humor. CCBC categories: Fiction for Children; Historical People, Places, and Events. (KTH; Apr 3)  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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