Module 11: How They Croaked

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King Tut, George Washington, Cleopatra, Marie Curie–what do all of these great historical figures have in common?  They all croaked, kicked the bucket, met their maker…they died.  Not only did they die, but they died in some of the most strange, gruesome, and mysterious ways.  This collection of biographies of the famous chronicles the lives of its subjects–often debunking or proving myths–and provides a scientific analysis of each of their deaths.  

APA Reference:

Bragg, G (2011). How they croaked. New York, NY:  Scholastic.

This title details the gruesome deaths of several famous figures including Queen Elizabeth, Pocahontas, Napoleon, Einstein, and many more. This title is a social science/ biography nonfiction book presented in chapters, one for each figure. The margins are wide and text is often accompanied with black and white drawings and figures that correlate with the subject matter. 

Other than just being very informative,
How They Croaked is a riot! The writing style incorporates colloquialisms and humor while providing the details and sometimes hilarious facts surrounding each death (King Henry VIII’s body exploded in his tomb because of the amount of infection and gasses that had built up in the layers of fat!)

At the end of each chapter the author provides little tid-bits and related facts such as all the different things that were named after Caesar (calendar, cesarean section, czar, Kaiser, etc.)

As an example of an excellent informational text,
How They Croaked engages students through it’s relatable language, humorous tone, and related sketches. The brief chapters make for excellent read-alouds for students of all ages. Even our HOSA (Health Science Occupations) teacher came in and bought one for her class because of the direct tie-in with her curriculum.

Professional Review:

The Book Review

BRAGG, Georgia. How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous. illus. by Kevin O’Malley. 178p. charts. bibliog. further reading. index. Web sites. CIP. Walker. 2011. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8027-9817-6; RTE $18.89. ISBN 978-0-8027-9818-3. LC 2010008659.
Gr 5-9–King Tut died of malaria; Edgar Allan Poe is suspected to have had rabies. Beethoven and Galileo both met their ends due to lead poisoning. Fifteen other historical figures, including world leaders, writers, and scientists, were felled by things as mundane as pneumonia and as unpredictable as angry mobs. Each entry provides the circumstances of the person’s death and gives context to those circumstances, from discussions of the political climate to medical practices of the time. Chapters are separated by a spread of brief facts related to the individual, the demise, or the era. Lively, full-page caricatures set in decorative frames appear throughout, along with spot illustrations. Back matter includes a lengthy list of sources. The sometimes-snarky writing gives the material a casual, conversational tone that will appeal to many readers. The title alone provides an easy booktalk; expect this one to be passed around and pored over.
By Brandy Danner, Wilmington Memorial Library, MA

Danner, B. (2011). How they croaked: the awful ends of the awfully famous [Review of the book How they croaked:  the awful ends of the awfully famous].School Library Journal57(4), 189-190.

Library Uses:
This book would be a very entertaining opening title for a book talk featuring biographies for young adults.  A trailer could cleverly preview a few of the famous and their deaths. 

One thought on “Module 11: How They Croaked

    […] of Henrietta Lacks, Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Deadliest Weapon, and How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous and realized that I was, in fact, a nonfiction reader!  Suddenly, I remembered such favorites from […]

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