Okay, so you might think I’m a bit sick for loving this book (and I truly do) but there is something so interesting and twisty about it all at the same time. Part of the reason I love this book so much is that I have the best time booktalking it. Seriously, kids shriek, laugh and then gasp as I’m telling them about Phineas. So what book am I referring to? Why Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman of course! I read this book several years ago, and it quickly became my go to nonfiction book to tell students about when I wanted to get their attention.
Phineas was a young man, only 26, when he had a tamping rod go shooting through his head…. and he survived!!! This happened in 1848 and when everyone got over their shock that this man was walking and talking after a metal rod went through his head, they thought he was fine. That is, everyone but his doctor, who began to notice Phineas had some strange behaviors. The doctor realized Phineas’ reasoning had been impaired and he had problems relating to people, issues that had never plagued Phineas before the accident. Phineas lived another 11 years after his near fatal head trauma and in that time, he helped advance the realization that the brain might have areas that were responsible for different things. At the time this book was published, there were no known pictures of Phineas, but since then, one has surfaced, showing Phineas with none other than the tamping rod that went flying through his head!
Recommended for readers who love science and who won’t be put off by the scientific jargon: grades 7th and up.