- Shelley Lantz
Phineas Gage was truly a man with a hole in his head. Phineas, a railroad construction foreman, was blasting rock near Cavendish, Vermont, in 1848 when a thirteen-pound iron rod was shot through his brain. Miraculously, he survived to live another eleven years and become a textbook case in brain science.
What an amazing story! The pictures and illustrations add to the narrative, and the cover photograph of his skull is very thought-provoking. Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story, by John Fleischman, approaches Phineas’s life after the accident from a scientific and psychological viewpoint. Fleischman includes interviews with people who knew Gage before his accident as well as after and observed the changes in his behavior. The author also presents notes from the doctors who treated him over the eleven years following his accident. It is an amazing story of survival and the resilience of the human brain. Who would have thought that anyone could have survived even a little while--let alone talk, walk and function after such an event?
Tweens will be drawn to the cover and the title. They will want to learn more about the gruesome details which would be great for discussion, too. Should Phineas Gage’s skull be made available for display? Obviously doctors could and did learn a lot about brain science by studying his corpse, but how did his family feel? This could expand to discussions on organ donors and donating your body to science. I would recommend this book to older tweens because of the subject matter but especially to those older tweens who are interested in medicine or forensics--a hot topic!