How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous

Overview

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes, epic failures even lead to super successes . . . sometimes they become deep dark secrets. But remember—to fail is human, to laugh about our shortcomings divine. From Montezuma II’s mistaking a conqueror for a god to Isaac Newton turning from science to alchemy to J. Bruce Ismay’s jumping the lifeboat line on the Titanic, How They Choked knocks fourteen famous achievers off their pedestals to reveal the human ...

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Overview

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes, epic failures even lead to super successes . . . sometimes they become deep dark secrets. But remember—to fail is human, to laugh about our shortcomings divine. From Montezuma II’s mistaking a conqueror for a god to Isaac Newton turning from science to alchemy to J. Bruce Ismay’s jumping the lifeboat line on the Titanic, How They Choked knocks fourteen famous achievers off their pedestals to reveal the human side of history.

Successful “failures” include:

Marco Polo • Queen Isabella of Spain • Montezuma II • Ferdinand Magellan • Anne Boleyn • Isaac Newton • Benedict Arnold • Susan B. Anthony • George Armstrong Custer • Thomas Alva Edison • Vincent Van Gogh • J. Bruce Ismay • “Shoeless Joe” Jackson • Amelia M. Earhart

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
04/01/2014
Gr 5 Up—In this follow-up to How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous (Walker, 2011), Bragg pokes fun, plays up, and revels in the mistakes of 14 famous figures because "There's nothing better than reading about how someone else messed up." Some of the people have character flaws, others made bad decisions and one, Susan B. Anthony, just didn't live to see her major life goal achieved. The majority of the individuals are Western men with recognizable names, such as Marco Polo and Thomas Alva Edison, who will be remembered for more than their accomplishments once Bragg is done with them. She doesn't pull any punches when describing Henry VIII's indiscretions in Anne Boleyn's chapter, Vincent Van Gogh's complete lack of friends, or J. Bruce Ismay's cowardice on the Titanic, which puts a matte of humanity on the usually shiny package of history. O'Malley's fabulous caricature-like illustrations perfectly accentuate the text and spice up the layout. Written in a chatty style, full of wit and laugh-out-loud moments, this charmingly irreverent delivery of history is not only entertaining but packed full of lessons to be learned.—Heather Acerro, Rochester Public Library, MN
Publishers Weekly
06/16/2014
Like Bragg and O’Malley’s How They Croaked (2011), this lightly illustrated book offers caustically humorous insights into history—this time, via 14 famous figures who failed spectacularly at something. Subjects include Custer (“After Custer died, the Indian women found his corpse and bored a hole in his eardrums because George Armstrong Custer was a man who never listened”) Earhart (“the bad odds about gravity caught up with her”), and Van Gogh (“This time his family got their wish: Vincent finally went into an insane asylum”). Irresistible entertainment (and solid information) for readers with a tendency toward schadenfreude. Ages 10–14. Author’s agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Melissa Turk. (May)
From the Publisher
"An insightful, informative narrative explaining how these individuals earned a place in history, including both their accomplishments and embarrassing and sometimes-tragic failures . . . Readers will be entertained and fascinated by the flawed humanity depicted within." —Kirkus Reviews

"Written in a chatty style, full of wit and laugh-out-loud moments, this charmingly irreverent delivery of history is not only entertaining but packed full of lessons to be learned." —School Library Journal

"The snarkily entertaining narratives are illustrated with caricatures of each subject. For better or worse, subjects are rarely as one-dimensional as most biographies paint them, and this book proves that nobody is perfect." —Booklist

"A delightfully snarky look at the remarkable mistakes of a few of history’s famous figures . . . If you have not already added How They Croaked to your collection, buy both it and How They Choked immediately. Read it yourself, put it on display—it will get passed around with (disgust) delight." —VOYA

"Offers caustically humorous insights into history . . . Irresistible entertainment (and solid information) for readers." —Publishers Weekly

"A delightfully informative, humorous, and honest look at some of history’s well-known characters." —Library Media Connection

"This all-too-informative study deserves the wild popularity it will without a doubt acquire." —Booklist, starred review on How They Croaked

"Engaging, informative and downright disgusting." —Kirkus Reviews, on How They Croaked

"Expect this one to be passed around and poured over." —School Library Journal, on How They Croaked

"Carried away on a swift-flowing stream of body fluids, medical ineptitude, and O'Malley's deliciously snarky artwork, kids will agree they got exactly what they came for." —BCCB, on How They Croaked

Awards for How They Croaked: Texas Lone Star List, ALA Notable Book, ALA Quick Pick List, IRA Young Adults Reading List, Bank Street Best Book of the Year

VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2) - Shana Morales
The duo who brought us How They Croaked: The Awful Ends Of The Awfully Famous (Bloomsbury, 2011/Voya August 2011) have graced us with a delightfully snarky look at the remarkable mistakes of a few of history’s famous figures. Readers can enjoy the lives and failings of Marco Polo, Amelia Earhart, Isaac Newton, and Benedict Arnold, among others. The casual language reads more like a quick-witted conversation than a nonfiction textbook. Each section starts off with the name of the subject and a humorous illustrated portrait. A brief title indicating who they were (e.g., “Adventurer,” “Queen,” “Artist”) and where and when they were born and died set up the time period. A fact page at the end of each section introduces additional information, such as the difference in AC and DC power, song lyrics, or how to calculate a batting average. Young readers interested in historical figures will love this book; just like its predecessor, it is not dry material. A quick rundown of each subject’s life and major accomplishments (mistakes) can spark further interest in important figures, time periods, and events. If you have not already added How They Croaked to your collection, buy both it and How They Choked immediately. Read it yourself, put it on display—it will get passed around with (disgust) delight. Reviewer: Shana Morales; Ages 11 to 14.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-31
Bragg's follow-up to How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous (2011) reveals the failures of 14 notables from history. Bragg's cheeky humor is on display with chapter titles like "Till Beheading Do Us Part" for Anne Boleyn, "The Law's in Town" for Isaac Newton, and "Stinker, Traitor, Soldier, Spy" for Benedict Arnold. She describes Gen. Custer as "a peacock with a pistol" and reveals that Ferdinand Magellan, credited as the first man to sail around the world, actually only made it halfway. Queen Isabella of Spain is remembered for financing Columbus' expeditions, but she also started the Spanish Inquisition. J. Bruce Ismay commissioned the "unsinkable" Titanic but then jumped to the front of the women-and-children lifeboat line to save his own skin when an iceberg proved the ship sinkable. Beneath Bragg's flippant tone is an insightful, informative narrative explaining how these individuals earned a place in history, including both their accomplishments and embarrassing and sometimes-tragic failures. Between each chapter is a page or two of information related to the work of those profiled and their times. O'Malley's cartoon illustrations are a great complement to Bragg's informal, conversational style. Meaty backmatter includes seven pages of audience-appropriate suggestions for further reading and surfing, keyed by fail-er. Readers will be entertained and fascinated by the flawed humanity depicted within. (notes, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802734891
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 5/6/2014
  • Pages: 208
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

GEORGIA BRAGG is the author of How They Croaked as well as Matisse on the Loose, a middle-grade novel. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two children, and two cats.

www.georgiabragg.com

KEVIN O'MALLEY is the co-author and illustrator of the popular Miss Malarkey series, as well as the New York Times bestseller Gimme Cracked Corn and I Will Share and many other books for children. He lives in Maryland.

www.booksbyomalley.com

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