Book Review | The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester (The Curiosity House #1)

The Shrunken Head (The Curiosity House #1) by Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester

Published by HarperCollins Children’s Books on September 29, 2015

Genres: Children’s, Middle Grade, Mystery, Urban Fantasy

Format: ARC

Pages: 368

Source: BEA

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.


I got in a line to meet Lauren Oliver at Book Expo America (“BEA”) this past May and came away with this book, of which I knew nothing. What I got in The Shrunken Head is a fun children’s story that takes place in New York City in the 1930s. The setting is Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders, which just got in a new and exciting oddity – a shrunken head. This head wows audiences and drives crowds to Dumfrey’s until it is stolen. The story follows four children who live and perform at Dumfrey’s as they run around New York trying to find the head and figure out why so many people have mysteriously died since the head’s disappearance.

The Shrunken Head is perfect for fans of Clue and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, as it combines these genres in a new way. Our ‘freaks’ in the story are: Pippa, a mind reader; Thomas, a boy who can fit into any space no matter how small; Max, a knife-throwing girl; and Sam, a scrawny strongman. These four unite to save the museum they call home, and make a great cast of characters. Each child has a well-developed personality individually, but work together really well. In addition, The Shrunken Head has an extended character list that is easy to follow and keep in line.

Moreover, The Shrunken Head is very well written. I loved the funny lines thrown in, and how the mystery aspect of the story is well-crafted. There are just enough hints along the way that make the book fun for adults as well as children. That being said, I do think the storyline is a bit dark for its intended audience of 8-12-year-olds. The Shrunken Head is a murder mystery, so there is a bit of violence, and a discussion of murder and suicide. While there is nothing too graphic, if you are a parent of young children I would keep the subject-matter in mind.

One thing I do really love about the story, though, is the overall message. I think it’s great that The Shrunken Head discusses body image and being different, and how what makes a person good is not what he looks like on the outside. I definitely look forward to seeing the children in The Shrunken Head in another book soon, especially considering the ending of this one!

All in all, I really enjoyed The Shrunken Head. It is a cute and fun story, and can be enjoyed by a wide audience. I look forward to seeing the final version of the book upon its release on September 29, 2015, so I can see the beautiful artwork that is to be included (I only got sneak peeks in my advanced copy!). I definitely recommend The Shrunken Head if it sounds like something up your alley!


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