Middle Grade Book Review: Curiosity House - The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver

Title: The Shrunken Head
Series: Curiosity House
Author: Lauren Oliver
Sale Date: September 29, 2015
Age: Ages 8 to 12, Grades 3 to 7  
Genre: Middle Grade - Mysteries & Detective Stories
Pages: 368
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars
Buy: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

What you will find in this book:

– A rather attractive bearded lady
– Several scandalous murders
– A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head
– Four extraordinary children with equally extraordinary abilities
– A quite loquacious talking bird

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-
thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts. 

This sensational new series combines the unparalleled storytelling gifts of Lauren Oliver with the rich knowledge of the notorious relics collector H.C. Chester. 

What you will NOT find in this book:

– An accountant named Seymour
– A never-ending line at the post office
– Brussel sprouts (shudder)
– A lecture on finishing all your homework on time
– A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys. 

"Welcome to Dumfrey's Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders"

The Shrunken Head is a charming book, one easily enjoyed by both young readers and their older counterparts. Set during the 1930's in New York City, it is the first book in author Lauren Oliver's newest series titled the Curiosity House. As the story begins, readers will immediately feel the sense of being part of the story as they are welcomed to: "step right up and don't be shy. You must not-you absolutely cannot!-put this book down." And, it is hard to do so, even as an adult the storytelling is that easy to fall into.

"Within these pages is a museum, and within the museum is a story of wondrous weirdness, of magic and monsters ... and of four of the most extraordinary children in the world."

Filled with terrific atmosphere, adventure, and mystery The Shrunken Head easily captivates its readers. Here, at Dumfrey's Dime Museum readers can wonder through the Odditorium and see a pygmy witch doctor or Polynesian cannibals, on the second floor you'll find the Hall of Wax filled with eerie and lifelike figures. But, it is the nightly 6:30 performance that we meet the four extraordinary children, the orphans-Thomas, Sam, Pippa and Max, witness a scandalous murder, and the most heinous of crimes - the theft of the museum's greatest treasure: "A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head!" Faced with the possible closure of their beloved home now in financial trouble, the children set out to find the shrunken head and solve the mystery behind its theft. Along the way, they discover uniqueness is a strength, friendship can battle any enemy, and home is where you make it.

"All grown-ups must be accompanied by a child, and disbelievers will be clobbered on the head with an umbrella. Gaping and gawking are strictly encouraged, although pointing is, as always, rude."

Each child is as unique as their extraordinary talent making it a great choice for both boys and girls. Thomas can squeeze himself into a space no larger than a shoebox, Sam is the world's strongest boy, Pippa is a mentalist, and Max throws a knife with deadly accuracy and stealth. The story is one that though these children's abilities are something one would only dream of and imagine, the feelings they share about being odd, different, and unique make them ones I'm sure young readers will grasp onto and empathize with all the while they thrill and squeal over the story Lauren Oliver creates and the odd curiosities that H.C. Chester reveals. 

Recommended to readers both young (tween) and old, those who like their wondrous mixed with a bit of weird, their magic with monsters, and who know that friendship is one of the most extraordinary gifts of all.

PLEASE NOTE: A courtesy review copy of this book was provided by HarperCollins in exchange for my fair review. Thank you, HarperCollins for the review opportunity.