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*How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous* by Georgia Bragg, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley- young readers fantasy book review
Also by Georgia Bragg:

Matisse on the Loose

Also written and/or illustrated by Kevin O'Malley:

The Great Race
How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous
by Georgia Bragg, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley
Grades 5-8 192 pages Walker Books March 2011 Hardcover    

If you like your stomach to turn a little bit when you read, this book will do it.

After James A. Garfield was shot, he had to endure a number of doctors sticking their fingers into the bullet hole. Doctors tried to treat George Washington’s illness by applying crushed-up poisonous beetles to his neck. Blood blisters appeared as expected, but he didn’t get better.

Before Napoleon Bonaparte died in 1821, doctors gave him drugs that “triggered vomiting on a massive scale”; they blistered his thighs, and smeared him with wax and mutton suet.

The details prove that they suffered before their deaths, but for some of the nineteen famous people mentioned in this book, death did not mean they were finally at peace. King Tut has been dead since 1323 BC, but his body was studied in 1922, 1968, 2005, and 2009. A museum in Italy has Galileo Galilei’s middle finger on display, and a pathologist at Princeton Hospital has Albert Einstein’s brain preserved in a jar.

Following a black-and-white caricature drawing of each celebrity, a tombstone displays some basic facts about their life, along with five to seven pages of information about their life and death. These mini-biographies contain the story surrounding their death but also include information about their childhood, their work, and sometimes his or her relationships.

This book was well-researched, as evidenced by the lengthy eight-page bibliography. The text, which is meant to be humorous (and sometimes silly), is broken up by cartoon illustrations.

The author concludes each chapter with two pages of trivia related to the person’s death. Facts about the guillotine and the three-foot-tall hairdo called the pouf wrap up Marie Antoinette’s chapter, while details about tuberculosis and rabies end Edgar Allan Poe’s chapter.

Children needing more information about how these famous people lived can turn to the Further Reading and Surfing section at the end of the book. I would recommend How They Croaked to readers who want more of the same type of information that appears in the You Wouldn’t Want To… series.

Georgia Bragg is the author of Matisse on the Loose and lives in Los Angeles. Kevin O’Malley is the author/illustrator of Gimme Cracked Corn and I Will Share. He lives in Maryland.
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  Tanya Boudreau/2011 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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