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 ChokedL Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous. 

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

Bibliographic Citation:
Backderf, Derf. (2012). My Friend Dahmer. New York, NY: Abrams ComicArts. ISBN 9781419702174.

Image from Amazon.com (Click to redirect to site)

Image from Amazon.com
(Click to redirect to site)

Plot Summary:
My Friend Dahmer is a graphic novel that follows the adolescent life of Jeffrey Dahmer. The novel chronicles his parent’s rocky marriage, his strange and antisocial behavior in school, experimentation with animal corpses, and finally heading down the notorious path we all know he takes to become a serial killer. Derf Backderf provides first hand insight into who or what Jeffrey Dahmer was and how he got that way.

Critical Analysis:
Derf Backderf had the unique and unsettling opportunity to grow up and know Jeffrey Dahmer. It has been said that this book will satisfy someone’s morbid curiosity, and it definitely does. The art and text are interdependent to a degree, but the illustrations are so exquisite that they can almost tell the story without words. But of course you want to know more, you want more details, you want to know WHY Jeffrey Dahmer became such a prolific serial killer and why no one seemed to notice there was something off about him. And so there are words, and you read on…

Backderf segments the story into parts: the preface, the prologue, Parts 1 – 5 and the epilogue, each shedding a bizarre light on the dark history of Jeffrey Dahmer. Backderf transitions between panels and segmented sections flawlessly. He is a master of his craft and makes the reader enjoy an otherwise creepy and haunting chain of events. You turn page after page devouring the text, and studying the comic. The art is monochromatic, all done in grayscale with entire frames predominately black. All very fitting for such a gloomy tale. It is pure evil packaged into something beautiful.

Perhaps the most harrowing detail of it all comes at the end. Backderf receives a phone call from a friend who tells him that someone he graduated high school with is a cannibal, necrophiliac, serial killer. This friend asks Derf to guess who it might be and his second guess, that’s right his second guess, out of everyone in his class, is Jeffrey Dahmer. So on some level his capabilities, his tendencies, and who he would become were always known.

So what is there not to like about My Friend Dahmer? Well, not much. The subject matter and content can be a bit too mature for a young adult. At times it can even be a little much for an adult reader, but you have to expect a certain level of repulsion and maturity when reading a book about Jeffrey Dahmer. My biggest qualm with it all is that the title is very misleading. Jeffrey Dahmer was never Backderf’s friend. Backderf under no circumstances liked Jeffrey Dahmer or considered him to even be a part of his friend circle. Dahmer was just this guy that he knew and that’s about it.