‘They Lost Their Heads’ should help answer your questions

Your neck bone’s connected to your back bone.

And that’s a good thing. You want to be the most together person around, in more ways than one. No sense in having your body parts lying scattered when you really need them all in one place. Disconnection could be a problem, as you’ll see in “They Lost Their Heads!” by Carlyn Beccia.

So you’ve lost your place in a book before. You’ve lost your thoughts in class. You might’ve lost your glasses or gloves but have you ever lost your arm or leg or worse? Throughout history, it’s happened, and it wasn’t pretty.

Take, for instance, George Washington.

When he was a young man, Washington was prescribed medicine that was bad for his health and his teeth all fell out. These weren’t baby teeth that would be replaced; they were adult teeth and so he had to have dentures. Legend says that his new teeth were wooden but the truth is much more disgusting.

And then there’s Ines de Castro, a beauty who fell in love with the wrong guy. She lost her life but she got the throne anyway, years after her death.

Once, there was a time when it was cool to have someone’s skull sitting around in your living room and mistakes were made when putting that noggin back with its rightful owner. Accidents happen, too, just as they did with Phineas Gage, who had an iron rod blasted through his cranium.

In this book, you’ll read about odd burials and strangely-used coffins. You’ll learn about the mystery surrounding Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. You’ll see if Vincent Van Gogh really chopped off his own ear. You’ll read about how old hair follicles offer new clues to disease and genetics. Find out why you should be glad you never dined with William Buckland; why people might collect body parts; how vampire killers were basically right in their weird ideas; why bumpy heads were once important indicators of moral character; and how you can gaze today upon the face of a woman who died more than 120 years ago…

Before you hand “They Lost Their Heads!” to your teen, there’s one thing you need to do: turn to page 69 and read the footnote at the bottom. The warning is a little late, but heed it if your child has tender feelings and a weak stomach.

You’ll be glad you did because, while this book is funny and as lighthearted as the subject can get, it’s not for the squeamish. Instead, author Carlyn Beccia tells page after page of don’t-read-this-before-lunch tales that will gross a right-minded kid out so delightfully well that he’ll absolutely have to come back for more. Skulls, maggots, and skeletons rule here, but so do historical events and authentic science.

Be mindful that, while they don’t diminish the eeeeeuuuwwww factor, edgier footnotes in this book lean it more toward big-kid readers. So beware, but know that if your 11-to-16-year-old loves that which is gruesome, “They Lost Their Heads!” will make him lose his mind.

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