Saturday, August 8, 2015

Saturday Shout-Out: How They Croaked (Bragg/O'Malley)

AUTHOR: Georgia Bragg and Kevin O'Malley
PUBLISHER: Walker Children's
NUMBER IN SERIES: standalone
PUBLICATION DATE: March 15, 2011
GENRE: nonfiction

All I had to do is tell the story of King Tut. The kids had all heard of him before, and there is this new graphic that shows what King Tut probably looked like. Researchers used Tut's mummy to create a computerized 3-D image of Tut. And he looks NOTHING like hottie Avan Jogia (star of the 2015 Tut miniseries on Spike TV). So I talk about Tut and show some Egyptian art that depicts Tut as a boy king. Of course, I also show the new 3-D graphic of what he probably looked like. I talk about theories of how he might have died (which are described in the King Tut chapter of How They Croaked). Then I tell the students that thanks to advancements in DNA research, they mystery of King Tut's death has finally been solved. I ask them which of the theories they like, or if they have any other ideas. Then I tell them the true cause of death...(See, aren't you dying to know right now?)

How They Croaked presents short, incredibly interesting histories about how 19 famous historical figures died and myths surrounding their deaths. It includes Henry VIII, Napoleon, Elizabeth I, Albert Einstein, Cleopatra, and many others. The text is non-linear, meaning it does not read at all like a textbook. There are funny cartoons and humorous commentary throughout, making this an excellent choice for reluctant readers and those who enjoy Terry Deary's Horrible Histories series or the You Wouldn't Want to Be...series. What's truly great about all these series is that they also generate student interest in history.

So I have two copies of How They Croaked in the library, and both are constantly checked out. I could easily buy 3-4 more copies, and I think they'd get checked out just as much. Like the Minecraft books I discussed in last week's Saturday Shout-Out, this is another book that never stays on the shelf long. In fact, we don't even bother with shelving it anymore; we just put it on a book display by the door. It's usually gone within a couple of class periods.

We recently received the companion book, How They Choked, in our library. It's been popular with students, but it's mostly because of How They Choked. I only ordered one copy, and that seems to be enough for now. How people messed up is not nearly as interesting as how they died, I guess. Or, maybe I just need to find a story in it that can generate as much interest as King Tut.


  • Tell the King Tut story as I described above. Virtually all the students will have at least heard of Tut, and some will probably surprise you with their knowledge of not only Tut but of Egypt and Egyptian mythology as well.
  • Hold up the book to show the format and cartoons (or project the pages with an Elmo)
  • Include How They Croaked in booktalks about Egypt (see my booktalk on TPT--available for free download)

Is King Tut as popular in your library as he is in mine? Share your thoughts in the (CAPTCHA-FREE!) comments section below.

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