Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous

Bragg, Georgia, and Kevin Malley. How they croaked : the awful ends of the awfully famous. New York: Walker & Co, 2011. Print.

ISBN:  9780802798176

Audience: Ages 8-14, Grade 3-8

Summary:  This book tells the gory details of the deaths of 19 famous people, including King Tut, Christopher Columbus, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein. The contribution each person made to the world is explained, but the focus is on the manner of their death. The informal writing style and cartoon-like black and white line drawings that fill the pages help to give the book a more light-hearted mood when contrasted with the gruesome content. A great deal of attention is paid to the medical “treatments” that were available at the time, and the advances our society has made. Each biography is followed with a  two-page spread of trivia about some aspect of the person’s life or death. 

Strengths:  What a fascinating book! It is full of interesting details about the lives and deaths of people and would absolutely appeal to young readers, especially boys. The data is obviously well-researched, and the book contains extensive source notes, suggestions for further reading, and an index.   

Weaknesses:  Some parents could have problems with kids reading about the macabre subject. There is not enough information here for a thorough study of any of these figures, and students would have to be encouraged to do further research.

Uses:   This book would be a good introduction for students who are writing research reports (CCSS ELA: W.7 Grades K-6), especially if they are trying to find a subject to research in more depth. There are many charts, graphs, and other graphics that could used as examples of text features (CCSS ELA:RI.8 Grades 4-6).  Art teachers could use the illustrations to talk about graphic design and line drawings. Social Studies teachers could use this text as a high-interest read aloud when discussing key historical figures.

·      Scared Stiff: Everything you need to know about 50 famous phobias – Sara  Latta (trivia about phobias, both common and uncommon)
·      The Most Famous Pirates – Cindy Jenson-Elliott (famous pirates from thoroughout history, including a chapter on female pirates)
·      Ten Queens: Portraits of Women of Power- Milton Meltzer (biographies of famous queens, including Cleopatra)
·      You Wouldn’t Want to Sail with Christopher Columbus! – Fiona MacDonald (some unappealing facts about sailing during Columbus’ time)
·      Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Alvin Schwartz (series of stories based on folklore and urban legends) 

Cybils Award for Nonfiction
NC Children’s Book Award
KY Bluegrass Award
Volunteer State Book Award
YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers

Other:  Starred review in Booklist

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