Trying to Identify a Children's Book Series

Knowing the amazing ability of the Doper community to recognise movies and books based on virtually nothing, I turn to you.

When I was a kid my brothers and I were really into a series of children’s books that we used to get out of the library so we don’t have them any more. They were set in I would guess the 19th century, or just maybe very early 20th, in the US possibly somewhere mid-west-ish. The location was I think a small to medium town. The series concerned a family of very imaginitive children (in a practical, not fairytale, sense).

They had a tremendous sense of family rules, dreamed up and enforced by the children on one another. I remember for example that one of the punishments, imposed by children on one another for transgressions was “the silent treatment” where for a period of a few days or so they would totally cut off one child; refuse to speak to them at all.

At least one of the boys was highly enterprising and plots revolved around him dreaming up a scheme that would initially go well but ultimately come apart. I remember when they got a bike he started hiring it out to the neighbourhood kids and made a fortune (by children’s standards).

I remember that their father was regarded as somewhat eccentric by the conservative townfolk: the family was the first to get an internal flushing toilet for example, and their neighbours were all sniggering that it would stink their house out.

I really struggle to remember anything else except that the stories were a lot of fun and I think my older son would enjoy them.

Dopers, do your stuff!

Sounds like The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald.

Bingo. 16 minutes. Not bad. Thanks Surok.

The Great Brain was my hero in the third grade. I actually tried some of his scams, until my teacher caught on.

Yes indeed. I remember several of the plot points the OP mentions.

They hold up very well - you’ll enjoy them as an adult. A point I didn’t remember at all is that the family is one of the few non-Mormon families in town.

Yeah, the fact that the series involved Mormons at all totally escaped me as a kid. Great books, though.

At least semi-autobiographical, I think.

One of my very favorite series of books as a kid. I read as many as I could find. We have The Great Brain sitting on our bookshelf right now and I am very sad that I can not convince any of my children that the book is worth reading. :frowning:

(stupid Warriors books.)

Maybe they can’t read it. Older kids books were fairly literate as kid’s books go. Compare some of the original Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew volumes to the rewritten versions and you’ll see what I mean.

Oh, the Great Brain books. I loved those! My teacher read part of the first book every day after lunch in 3rd and 4th grades (I had the same teacher two years in a row). When I found out there were more, I got them all out of the library.

I remember them surprisingly clearly, even after all these years. Remember the kid who fell on a rusty nail while playing in a barn and ended up getting gangrene and had to have his leg amputated? That was awesomely disgusting.

There was also a bit where a kid died of diabetes. This was a little traumatic to me because my mom is diabetic and it had never really been clear to me that it was a disease that could actually kill people.

While visiting a friend in Utah, years later, I was delighted to discover that ZCMI stores are real. They did not have penny candy, though.

I loved that series! Remember the trek the father made with the boys, and the Brain made little piles of stones along the way without telling anyone what he was doing? When they ran into disaster and had no way of getting back or letting anyone know what had happened, they were found by their, I think uncle, who followed the trail he had left. And the father was so downcast and felt like such an idiot, but the Brain let him save face by telling everyone that the signs had been the father’s idea.

Terrific books!

If you can find the book, Papa Married a Mormon is John D. Fitzgerald’s more straight, (less fictionalized) account of his growing up in Utah. His mom was Mormon, his dad was Catholic, and the kids all became Catholics except for Tom(the Great Brain) who became a Mormon.

There’s also another adult book by the same author, called Uncle Will and the Fitzgerald Curse. If you liked the Great Brain books, you’ll like this one too.

Remember when the man allows himself to starve to death instead of ask for money or food from any of the other towns people?

I wanted to thank you all for the book recommendation. I have been reading this series (compliments of the library) to my 6 and 8 year old and they absolutely love them. The topics covered are a bit out of bounds compared to other books but we’ve had some great discussions about how plumbing works, how dogs mate, why rope is strong, the power of money, even “are people good or bad?”.

They laughed hysterically at how J.D. learns to swim by getting naked and then being flung off the diving board by his big brother.

They remind me of the Encyclopedia Brown books, but from Bugs Meany’s perspective.

I just bought The Great Brain for my nephew for his 8th birthday… I’m hoping he’ll like them as much as I did.

Me too! Which is kind of funny considering that I’m a Mormon. I just don’t know anything about Utah. :smiley:

I have very fond memories of reading these books as a kid.

God, I loved these.