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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2011
I debated for quite some time about whether to read this book. There is after all a warning at the beginning that the book contains "the blood, sweat, and guts of real people." And I've never been one for grossness. But in the end I decided that in order to share it with my students, many of whom I knew would be fascinated by this book, I needed to read it.

This book specifically looks at the lives (briefly) and unpleasant 'ends' of some of the worlds most famous people. Included are King Tut, Cleopatra, Henry VIII, Pocahontas, George Washington, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Darwin, etc. I confess that I didn't really expect to learn anything new. I love history and most of the people Bragg talks about are well-known. But I did learn things that surprised me. For example, I had no idea that Charles Dickens struggled with mental illness or that Albert Einstein's brain was stolen from his body before it was cremated. And I seriously had to wince reading the details of Christopher Columbus's numerous physical maladies.

This books is definitely not for the squeamish, but Bragg's light-hearted take on the subject keeps things moving while convincing the modern reader to be very grateful for modern medicine. For example, George Washington came down with what modern doctor's think was a throat infection that today could be cured by antibiotics. But his doctors used the following 'remedies,' bloodletting (numerous times, they took over a third of his blood), blister-beetle treatment (you don't want to know!), a dose of calomel (contains mercury, which is highly poisonous, tartar emetic (to make him vomit), and a variety of different poultices. No wonder he died!

Kevin O'Malley's illustrations provide a nice compliment to Bragg's style of writing and the sidebars provide extra tidbits of information. For example, did you know that July, Julian Calendar, Roman leaders, Czar, Kaiser, and C-section were all named after Julius Caesar. Also the first known autopsy was performed on Caesar. One would doubt the need for that because with 23 stab wound, the cause of death should be obvious, but it turns out that only ONE of the wounds was actually fatal. Apparently the assassins need to work on their aim.

I'm going to stop here because I wouldn't want to deprive you of the 'delights' of reading this book for yourself. Even if it doesn't work for you, I guarantee that someone in your life will be delighted to read it and share all the cool facts they learn with you! :)
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2011
I ordered this for my 10 year old grandson - he is very interested in history, and reads well above his greade level.

He loved it, and I did, also. Some of the double entendres were lost on him, but I caught them. Regardless, he has thoroughly enjoyed this book, and has taken some of the information contained therein back to his classroom.

This is a wonderful book for a child with a keen sense of humor and an understanding of "then" and "now".

This is also a wonderful book for parents and grandparents who want a little education and a lot of laughs.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2013
I saw my grandson reading this book and it looked good. So much so, I did not want to wait for him to finish so I bought my own copy. It is a bit gory in parts as you might expect from the title but kids like that kind of thing. So far, it has been a fun, easy read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
What do Cleopatra, Albert Einstein, Mozart, and Edgar Allan Poe have in common? If you guessed that they are dead, you are absolutely correct! If you guessed that they died in really gruesome, gross, bizarre ways, you win a cookie! Not that you'll want to eat a cookie after reading this book, unless you are just weird like that. Georgia Bragg does a stellar job of telling us how 19 "awfully famous" folks met their really "awful ends" in this admittedly cool book. The sad thing is most of these famous people could have probably lived longer, better, healthier lives and done even greater (or worse in the case of Napoleon and a few others) things if only they had been born in modern times. Most of these folks could have been cured of their diseases with a simple round of antibiotics or at least not been bled to death with leeches, razors, and poisonous insects! (Yes, really!) The black and white illustrations by Kevin O'Malley add a special touch as do the facts scattered throughout the book about everything from how mummies are made to how many presidents died on July 4th. Book includes a list of sources, including internet sites, and a comprehensive index. Grades 5 and up will love reading about these famous folks and the gross ways they died. At the very least, they'll learn that it really is important to wash your hands!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2013
I couldn't put it down. It would be great if Ms Bragg would write another book with other famous people!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2011
My almost 9-year-old twin granddaughters fought over this book and my eight-year-old grandson would not put it down even while dining out. I showed it to friends in my bridge group and one ordered it for her 28-year-old grandson. Never have I read a more fun book chock full of good information that shows the writer's thorough research. Every adult should read this book. The children enjoyed the illustrations, particularly the one of Henry VIII.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2014
Looking for an engaging read aloud for intermediate grade students? How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous (Bragg, 2011) might be a good idea. This book familiarizes students with famous people, with a sense of change over time (both books tell stories in chronological order), and they both have clear main ideas. How They Croaked (Bragg, 2011) is written with a sense of humor - which makes the guts and blood a little easier to swallow. What kid does not love gruesomeness? Bragg also reveals the idea that medicine and what we know about human ailments has evolved over time; unfortunately, there were some agonizing deaths along the way! This could serve as an anchor text for numerous lessons. I suggest reading it aloud, getting students interested, and then using a particular story about one famous person’s death to teach – maybe for loaded language, author’s tone, development of an idea, and so forth. Then additional excerpts could be used for small group reading and discussions. Another suggestion would be to post a timeline and the names of the famous people you read about as you go. OR you could just read this aloud for enjoyment. I'd also recommend this to parents for summer reading - independent or with a parent there to enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2015
My soon-to-be 8 year old daughter has a bit of a macabre streak -- she saw this book at the mall and immediately put it on her birthday list. The rest of the family thought it a bit odd, but this IS the same girl that carries around a skeleton doll for the entire month of October...

'How They Croaked' goes further than just describing the "How" of the way some famous folks' lives ended -- there's also quite a bit of insight into some of the other medical issues they fought. And it doesn't just end at death... the book also reveals some surprising stories about missing body parts, thievery, etc. I learned quite a bit having it read aloud from the backseat during a roadtrip! Note: The book doesn't mince words when it comes to slicing, dicing and decomposing, so you can also expect this to lead to more conversations about anatomy, etc. Heed the notice at the beginning that says "If you don't have the guts for gore, do not read this book."

The publisher listed the book as appropriate for ages 10 to 14, but even at 8, my daughter was okay with it. YMMV. You'll definitely get used to hearing "Ewwwwww! Hey, did you know __________?" If you found this review helpful, please do me a favor and click the "Yes" button below. Thank you!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2012
I first set my eyes on this book in my local library. At first I had imagined it to be just one of those creepy tales which can be read to middle grade kids. But I am glad that I did not go by my initial instincts. This book is truly very informative and an interesting work of non-fiction. It is very common to be familiar with the lives of the famous personalities. But very few of us actually know about how they met their death. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and have strongly recommended it to my 10year old son.I am confident that another 5-star rating review will soon follow!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2013
I volunteer with a group of retired ladies who read with middle school students. Many of the students have a poor view of reading "whole books", but "How They Croaked" intrigues them from the first time they look through the table of contents. Some of the 'naughty' words used by the author surprise these kids, but also make them want to keep reading. They learn useful facts about famous people as they work on their reading comprehension and fluency. Really fun for kids and adults.
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