How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg

croaked_Bibliographic Citation:
Bragg, Georgia. (2012). How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA Children’s. 978-0802727947.

Synopsis: 
How They Croaked tells the story of how nineteen prominent figures in history died without sugarcoating anything.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
Nonfiction is my first love. True crime came after that. As morbid and peculiar as it sounds, I love reading about death. How people died. What did it. Who did it. Where did it happen. I’m basically the Clue game of readers, so this book was right up my alley. More than that, I feel like I learned so much from this book. Am I the only person who didn’t know that C-Sections were named after Julius Caesar? Perhaps, but now I know. Am I the only one who didn’t know that President Garfield was assassinated but literally only died because people kept putting their germy hands in his wound? This book is seriously awesome. I learned all about Einstein’s brain being cut out and cut up during an unauthorized autopsy. Who wouldn’t want to read this book? I loved it. It’s a fast read, too. It is informative, gross, and creepy — it is everything a middle school kid wants in a book!

Nominations:

  • 2012 ALSC ALA Notable Children’s Books List 2012
  • 2012 International Reading Association Best Non-fiction Award
  • 2012 Top Ten Audio Books
  • 2012 YALSA ALA Quick Picks List for Nonfiction
  • 2012 Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street
  • 2012 Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles For Children and Teens
  • 2011 Cybils Awards Finalist (nonfiction)

Author Info:
Georgia Bragg is an artist and an author raised by artist parents in Los Angeles, CA. How They Croaked is her second book, and her most recent book is How They Choked Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous. 

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Bibliographic Citation:
Lockhart, E. (2014). We Were Liars. New York, NY: Delacorte Press. ISBN 978-0385741262.

(Image from Amazon.com)

(Image from Amazon.com)

Plot Summary:
We Were Liars tells the story of summer vacations with The Sinclair family, a miserably well to do bunch with their own private island. The narrator is Cadence “Cady” Sinclair, the oldest grandchild, who is trying to unravel a personal mystery.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I don’t want to say that We Were Liars was short and sweet because it really wasn’t sweet at all, but it was short and I really enjoyed it. I had it sitting at the top of my stack of books for weeks and finally picked it up yesterday. I read it quickly but I was ready to see it end. Mysteries aren’t really my thing and I could only go so long wondering what the heck happened to Cady to make her lose her memory before I would get bored. I feel like you discovered the truth once and for all at the perfect time.

I thought this book was written really well. It had a unique and fresh voice. I enjoyed how Lockhart interwined the fairy tales Cady was writting or bouncing around in her head between chapters. I thought it was interesting. This book just seemed smart to me. I like how everything came together. Every character was so distinct and authentic. It seemed like they were real people and the author was telling us something that maybe actually happened. It was a quick read, and it was difficult for me to put down.

I read a really bitter, hateful review for this book on Amazon that really aggravated me. I didn’t know how this story was going to end, but once I finished it there were so many signs that this was where it was heading. I cried at the end though. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I keep picking sad books. I really liked all of the main characters, well the Liars anyway. I rarely like every main character, but I liked Johnny, Mirren, Gat and Cady almost equally. Gat, of course, was my favorite. I think I was the saddest for him more so than anyone else. Harris, the grandfather, was a stingy, old man on a power trip and I think he should’ve died instead of the grandmother (that’s not a spoiler by the way). His daughters, Carrie, Bess, and Penny are annoying characters. But I guess they needed to be for the story to go the way it went. There are a few things I questioned in this book or “saw coming”, but I just attributed it to the characters being spoiled, pretentious trust fund babies who are clueless about everything.

My students ask me all the time to recommend books that are sad. This one is going on my list.

Quick summary:
Pacing? Perfect.
Characters: Likeable? Yes. Relatable? No.
Things to remember: This is a YA book. While it can (and does) appeal to older audiences, remember the characters are teenagers and this was written for teenagers.
Should you read it? Sure, why not.

Author Info:

Emily Lockhart is the author of several books including children, YA, and adult titles. Her book Disreputable History was a Printz Award honor book, a finalist for the National Book Award, and recipient of the Cybils Award for best young adult novel.