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Authors: Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester
Illustrator: Benjamin Lacombe
Release date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 368
Formats: Hardcover, paperback, audio, eBook


The book is about, among other things: the strongest boy in the world, a talking cockatoo, a faulty mind reader, a beautiful bearded lady and a nervous magician, an old museum, and a shrunken head.

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 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

What you will NOT find in this book:

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

Learn more about the series online at


NOTE: This review is based on an ARC received from the publicity agency in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.

The Review

CURIOSITY HOUSE: THE SHRUNKEN HEAD is an engaging, charming, and positively delightful read. It is fun and funny. Its characters are quirky and adorable. The mystery is captivating and exciting. The setting is interesting and enchanting and imaginative. The illustrations are remarkable. The writing is fantastic. It’s a story that readers of any age will enjoy.

Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders is the last of its kind. But even without any competition, it’s having a hard time keeping its doors open. People just aren’t as interested in the kinds of attractions that a dime museum has to offer anymore. Until, that is, the museum’s latest acquisition, an Amazonian shrunken head, becomes headline news.

An object that is said to be cursed is certainly interesting enough to draw in the looky-loos. When its disappearance coincides with a murder, people can’t stay away. But when suspicion is cast on the four extraordinary children of Dumfrey’s Dime Museum – Thomas, Pippa, Sam and Max – and even Dumfrey himself, the police order them to close up shop until further notice.

Without the museum, Thomas, Pippa and Sam will lose the only home they’ve ever known and the newest arrival, Max, will lose the place she was just beginning to call home. So they are determined to do whatever they can to solve the mystery, clear their names, and catch a killer. No matter what the risk.

Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester have penned an incredibly entertaining and quite spectacular first book in a series that promises to be amusing and sweet and totally bewitching. They’ve written a story that both literally and figuratively invites you in to meet its unusual characters and explore what Dumfrey’s has to offer right from the start.

The authors deliver a marvelous adventure that takes readers and characters alike through a wonderfully imagined version of Old New York. They created a mystery that requires some sleuthing but have dropped enough hints along the way to help in putting the pieces together. They introduced a few characters that will definitely prove problematic for Thomas, Pippa, Max, Sam and Dumfrey in future books in the series. They set the stage for new characters to make their entrance. And they revealed secrets that open up a world of possibilities for whatever is to come.

CURIOSITY HOUSE: THE SHRUNKEN HEAD is an unputdownable, feel-good read that brings you into a museum packed full from a treasure trove of bizarre, sometimes humorous, sometimes a little bit dangerous, finds. Its curator is odd but lovable. Its residents range from the phony to the gifted, all of whom are unique.

And with a few outsiders looking to take what Dumfrey has, any number of peculiar items that Dumfrey’s Dime Museum might acquire or lose, and the possibility for Thomas, Philippa, Sam or Mackenzie’s powers to grow, there are sure to be many riveting capers to come in this already wildly appealing series.

The Rating


About Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver photo

Lauren Oliver is the author of the YA bestselling novels Before I Fall, Panic, and Vanishing Girls and the Delirium trilogy: Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem, which have been translated into more than thirty languages and are New York Times and international bestselling novels. She is also the author of three novels for middle grade readers: The Spindlers; Liesl & Po, which was an E. B. White Read Aloud Award nominee; and Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head, co-written with H. C. Chester, and a novel for adults, Rooms. A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU’s MFA program, Lauren Oliver is also the cofounder of the boutique literary development company Paper Lantern Lit.


About H.C. Chester

H.C. Chester photo credit Kimiko Hahn

Like other boys, I spent many happy hours engaged in a favorite hobby: in my case, taking my mother’s discarded kitchen aprons and making them into historically accurate costumes for my pet Rottweiler, Buster. I still recall the perfect hours I spent roaming the woods and meadows around our house with Buster, dressed in his Marie Antoinette coronation gown, trotting happily at my side.

The turning point in my childhood–indeed, in my life–occurred when I was six, when during a routine visit with my parents to an antique shop my eyes fell upon a wondrous sight: a taxidermically mounted specimen of a large Peruvian fruit bat. Stuffed Peruvian fruit bats became the ruling passion of my life. Before long–through postal correspondence with the various dealers who advertise in the pages of the bi-monthly Peruvian Fruit Bat Fanciers Newsletter–I had acquired a dozen more preserved specimens of these endlessly fascinating creatures.

It was the seed of what was to grow into the H. C. Chester Relics Collection, the largest private assemblage of its kind in the entire country, if not indeed the world! Now I live happily with my best friend and companion, my dog “Trudy”, in the ancestral home in which I grew up, surrounded by all of the wondrous and strange items I have collected over the past six decades.

To read H.C. Chester’s full bio visit The Curiosity House Website.

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