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

illus. by Carlyn Beccia. 192p. bibliog. index. notes. Bloomsbury. Apr. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780802737458.
Gr 5–8—These tales of the bizarre and ghoulish "afterlives" of body parts include Galileo's fingers, George Washington's teeth, Lincoln's much-moved body, and other fleshly bits and pieces from actors, musicians, and artists. The book has 17 six-page chapters about wandering body parts, each concluding with a "Where are they now?" sidebar that provides their current locations. Chapters are followed by sections that offer information about related topics such as historical burial traditions and practices, the value of bodies for research, and advances in forensic and pathological science. This topic is one that has perpetual appeal to middle school readers, but the writing and presentation are flawed. Beccia is overly flippant: "The human teeth were sometimes George's own teeth or sometimes teeth he bought from his slaves. I know…pretty gross." Also, her attempts at humor frequently fall flat. The overuse of footnotes, which are a strange mix of additional information and jokes or asides where the author interjects information about herself or her opinions ("Well, duh") or her willingness to "totally" wear Nefertiti's headdress, will likely distract readers. Illustrations are simplistic black-and-white cartoons, many intended to be comical. This book is not as well written or compelling as Georgia Bragg's How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous.
VERDICT An additional choice where gross-out books are very popular.

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