John D. Fitzgerald

Born February 3, 1906 in Price, Utah, to an Irish Catholic father and a Scandinavian Mormon mother, John Dennis Fitzgerald grew up in a large family, the fourth of six children raised in a small Mormon Utah community. His childhood experiences, particularly the antics of his older brother Tom, led to the body of work he is best known for: The Great Brain series of children’s books. 

Authorship came later in life for Fitzgerald. Not one to feel resonance with Mormonism himself, Fitzgerald left Utah in 1925 at the age of 18, and found his way through a variety of jobs, including working at a bank, writing as an overseas correspondent, and doing a stint in a jazz band. At the age of 49, while working as a purchaser for a steel company in California, he published his first book, Papa Married a Mormon, a family history of his childhood, for which he achieved national recognition. Though it became a best seller, however, reviews were mixed, with some critics dismissing its tight-laced, Victorian sensibilities. 

In the 1960’s, at the behest of friends he’d amused detailing the antics his mischievous older brother, Fitzgerald turned to children’s literature and wrote the many books that made up The Great Brain series, winning him The Young Reader’s Choice for award for Children’s literature in both 1976 and 1978. Fitzgerald’s well-loved books were set in the fictional town of Adenville, Utah—a locale that appeared in both Papa Married a Mormon (1955), and its sequel Mama’s Boardinghouse (1958). Fitzgerald’s Great Brain series spanned eight volumes, one of which was published after his death on May 21, 1988, at age 82.



The Great Brain series:

  • The Great Brain, Dial Press (New York, NY), 1967
  • More Adventures of the Great Brain, Dial Press (New York, NY),1969
  • Me and My Little Brain, Dial Press (New York, NY), 1971
  • The Great Brain at the Academy, Dial Press (New York, NY), 1972
  • The Great Brain Reforms, Dial Press (New York, NY),1973
  • The Return of the Great Brain, Dial Press (New York, NY), 1974
  • The Great Brain Does It Again, Dial Press (New York, NY), 1976
  • The Great Brain Is Back, Dial Press (New York, NY),1995

Other Books:

  • Papa Married a Mormon, Prentice-Hall (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 1955 
  • Mamma's Boarding House, W.H. Allen (London, England), 1958
  • Uncle Will and the Fitzgerald Curse, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1961
  • The Professional Story Writer and His Art, Crowell-Collier (Springfield, OH),1963
  • Structuring Your Novel: From Basic Idea to Finished Manuscript, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1972
  • Brave Buffalo Fighter, Bethlehem Books (Bathgate, ND), 1973
  • Private Eye, Thomas Nelson (Nashville,TN), 1974


University of Minnesota Archives and Special Collections: The John D. Fitzgerald Papers

Additional Info

  • Region: Central Utah
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Tags: YA, Children's Literature