CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 29 . . . . April 1, 2011
A collection of very brief vignettes about the unusual ways in which people have died throughout history, Dreadful Fates starts with the grisly and giggly introduction above and never lets up. Loosely organized into thematic chapters, like "Dying of Laughter" and "Ironic Fates", each "story" – often as short as one sentence – exposes a shocking historical fact about the fate of an anonymous, famous, or infamous person or their dead body. From the voyages of Mozart's skull, to the repeated murder attempts on Rasputin, to people who have died slipping on banana peels, it's all here.
While the illustrations are so simple as to be almost amateurish, the rapid-fire style of the writing is tight, recalling more a joke book – or Ripley's Believe It Or Not! – than a typical nonfiction book. And that is the point – this is a fun, pointless, gleeful romp that young boys and reluctant readers will eat up. Libraries beware: don't let this book get lost in Dewey – display it!
Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario and has served on the jury of a number of children's literature awards.
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