How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous

 
5.0 (2)
 
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How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous
Author(s)
Age Range
10+
Release Date
May 15, 2011
ISBN
978-0802798176
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Over the course of history men and women have lived and died. In fact, getting sick and dying can be a big, ugly mess-especially before the modern medical care that we all enjoy today. How They Croaked relays all the gory details of how nineteen world figures gave up the ghost. For example:

It is believed that Henry VIII's remains exploded within his coffin while lying in state. Doctors "treated" George Washington by draining almost 80 ounces of blood before he finally kicked the bucket. Right before Beethoven wrote his last notes, doctors drilled a hole in his stomach without any pain medication. Readers will be interested well past the final curtain, and feel lucky to live in a world with painkillers, X-rays, soap, and 911.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Awesome and Gruesome
Overall rating
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
5.0
Learning Value
 
5.0
If the new Common Core Standards are going to force me to teach more nonfiction, I hope I can use texts like How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous. This is probably the grossest book I've ever read, which is the ultimate compliment for adolescent readers.

Detailing the deaths of nineteen historical figures, Georgia Bragg has done meticulous research and added so many tidbits and facts that readers will spend hours gleefully sharing disgusting information. Kevin O'Malley's illustrations add a touch of humor and lighten the mood of the gruesome deaths.

My students are learning about the Tudor Dynasty, so the sections on Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were among my favorites. In addition to detailing his death (um, did you know his corpse exploded in its coffin?), it has a chart of King Henry's unlucky wives, as well as the amount of food eaten in one day by Henry and his court (including 15 swans and 3,000 pears), and things that weigh as much as Henry VIII (58,060 U.S. pennies). This is exactly the kind of information I want to know about historical figures.

I will be recommending this book widely in order to convince young readers that nonfiction books don't have to be boring.

Good Points
Nonfiction can be fun!
Great illustrations
I learned so much!
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What a Way to Go
Overall rating
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
N/A
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Learning Value
 
5.0
If you’re looking for one of those stale, moth-eaten, run-of-the-mill history books to fill your idle hours, How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous, by Georgia Bragg, isn’t the book for you.

How They Croaked examines the lives (and putrid deaths) of famous figures from yester-year: Columbus, King Tut, Beethoven, Charles Darwin, and Edgar Allan Poe, just to name a few. It begins with details about each person’s early life and finishes by outlining each knife-riddled, maggot-infested or bacteria-festered demise.

I love this book! It’s well-organized, meticulously-detailed, and full of tidbits and asides that teach you a thing or two (or three) about the medical ignorance of yester-year, even as you double over in side-splitting laughter. You’ll learn how Beethoven’s doctors drilled a hole in his stomach and stuck a hose in it; why Charles Dickens walked in circles and threw raging fits; and why King Tut’s embalmers didn’t preserve his brain. This and other gruesome information is offered in stomach-churning chunks, but is softened quite nicely by the quaintly entertaining artwork of artist Kevin O’Malley.

I do recommend this book to history-lovers young and old, but I warn you, it’s not for the faint-hearted. Bragg even describes it as “pretty much one train wreck after another.” So if you can get past the putricity (I made that word up!) of it all, you’ll absolutely love How They Croaked, by Georgia Bragg.
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