" Interested in medicine? Dr. ABC seeks bright lad. Training and board. Apply number 113, Broadway. " Twelve-year-old Matthew Morrissey can't believe his luck when he spotsthis ad in the paper. He is interested in medicine--he wants tofind a cure for the cholera that wiped out his whole family and lefthim orphaned. Alone on the streets of 1840s New York, Matthew leaps atthe opportunity to help this Dr. ABC, whomever he is. As it turns out,he is the plump, puffy, rumpled Asa B. Cornwall, a kindly-if-obsessedphrenologist who hopes to someday perfect mankind through his study ofthe contours of human skulls, particularly those of flawed characters. " Give me a skull, and I can conjure up the very soul of a man! " Hecries passionately. Matthew is eager to please this eccentric man, ifonly for a warm bed and all the oatmeal he can eat. In time, however, his apprenticeship intensifies when he learns he musthelp his master rob graves for real specimens. And can the doctorreally mean that he wants Voltaire's skull from Paris? Things heat upeven more when they discover they have a mysterious enemy with a brow" broad and low," clearly the skull of a criminal. Kathleen Karr'sdelightful, well-crafted adventure is witty, suspenseful, anddeliciously Dickensian; most of all, it has a great deal of heart. Watching the older man and his young charge plow forward through nearmisses and comedies of errors is pure fun. And we, like the dynamicduo, come to learn that their companionship is far more valuable than achest of gold, an acre of skulls, or Dr. ABC's relentless pursuit ofperfection. (Ages 10 to 14) --Karin Snelson
About Kathleen Karr
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Published March 1, 2000
Action & Adventure, Children's Books, Literature & Fiction.