I’ve never been drawn to nonfiction. I would much rather be entertained by a good story than sit and read a bunch of facts. That’s how I’ve always viewed nonfiction, as boring as reading a textbook. I have always understood the need for nonfiction and realize that it has a well-deserved role in every classroom and library but I would never pick up a nonfiction book to read for pleasure. However, How They Croaked was a nonfiction book I couldn’t put down. It might be full of scientific and historical facts but it’s also humorous and entertaining.
Georgia Bragg has put together a tome of the grisly ends of some of the most famous people throughout history. Each chapter is on the life and death of a historical figure. The narration brings the facts to humorous life and the illustrations make it less intimidating to those who are nonfiction novices. The chapters all end with tips like “Steps for a Successful Leeching”, “Bloodletting Do’s and Don’ts”, and “Crossword Puzzle Words for ‘Dead’”. Readers will also learn things that might come in handy today. For example, after the chapter on Mozart there is the alphabet in sign language.
Bragg chose well in the people she decided to write about. Most of them died from things we never would even think of today because we live in a world of vaccines, hospitals, and Geiger counters. Teens reading this book will definitely get a history lesson while laughing out loud. They might know some of the facts already but they will most definitely learn something new. I learned that Cleopatra did not die of snakebite, that Einstein’s brain was stolen, and that Galileo wouldn’t drink water so drank a lot of lead laced wine.
This is one nonfiction book I will be able to recommend to many teen readers. It will be a book I use to entice kids with shorter attention spans and a taste for the macabre.