The Children’s Book Review | September 20, 2017
Paperback: 362 pages
Age Range: 9-12
Publisher: HarperCollins (2015)
What to expect: Suspense, adventure, unique abilities, fitting in
In Curiosity House The Shrunken Head, four orphans with unique abilities find themselves thrust into a murderous, madcap adventure. The stirring and suspenseful setting brings to life a series of events that reveal secrets about the children’s past and provide clues to an unravelling mystery about how they came to have their special abilities.
Philippa, Sam, Thomas and Max are under the care of Mr. Dumfrey in his Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities and Wonders. The museum houses a vast collection of relics and antiquities where the children feel at home and in a world of curiosities, they feel normal. But the acquisition of a strange shrunken head, and the mysterious murders that take place in connection with the acquisition, lead the children on a daring adventure to save Mr. Dumfrey. Told in a fast-paced and intriguing style, Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester hold the reader’s attention through their descriptive prose and detailed character development.
This is an interesting story with surprising twists that kept the pages turning. Although there is a stark description of a staged suicide that is in fact a cover-up of a murder, the story is age-appropriate and well-suited to readers that enjoy a good detective mystery. It was easy to read and provided quite a few opportunities to foster discussion on numerous topics of day-to-day importance.
Young Reader’s Perspective
The four children investigate the murders and due to their quick thinking save Mr. Dumfrey and thwart an evil scheme. I really enjoyed the author’s view on “fitting in”—because everyone is unique in their own way. Some of us have obvious differences and others have hidden differences but there is space for everyone. And even though the children were considered “freaks” they were warmer and kinder and smarter than any other characters in the book. I am looking forward to the next installment!
- This is a perfect read for the middle-school aged child because the concept of “fitting in” begins to hit home in a sometimes difficult way. As children begin to find their own unique qualities, this book reinforces the importance of being yourself, whether or not that means fitting in with one’s peers. Parents could use this book as an opportunity to discuss being comfortable in one’s own skin.
- The children in the book come to realize that there is a place for everyone, regardless of who you are or where you come from. Parents might use this opportunity to discuss the importance of community and inclusivity.
- The children learn to trust their instincts, an important lesson for all readers. As the story’s events unfold, the children forego the easy explanations that adults are trying to pawn off as the truth. Instead, they sense that there is a hidden truth and continue to investigate. Parents could use this opportunity to discuss the importance of verifying the sources of information.
About the Authors
Lauren Oliver is the author of the YA bestselling novels Before I Fall, Panic,and Vanishing Girls and the Delirium trilogy: Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem, which have been translated into more than thirty languages and are New York Times and international bestselling novels. She is also the author of three novels for middle grade readers: The Spindlers; Liesl & Po, which was an E. B. White Read Aloud Award nominee; and Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head, co-written with H. C. Chester, and a novel for adults, Rooms. A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU’s MFA program, Lauren Oliver is also the cofounder of the boutique literary development company Paper Lantern Lit.
More curious things have happened, however, we have no bio for H.C. Chester. If you know anything about him, please let us know!
Curiosity House The Shrunken Head, by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester, was read and reviewed by Luisa LaFleur and Isabela LaFleur (age 11) for a mother-daughter book discussion. Discover more books like Curiosity House The Shrunken Head by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Adventure, H.C. Chester, Lauren Oliver, Orphans, and Suspense.