July 3, 2015

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Reference Book Reviews | August 2013

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BECK YOUNG, Nancy. Encyclopedia of the U.S. Presidency: A Historical Reference. 6 vols. 3056p. bibliog. index. Facts On File. 2013. Tr $550. ISBN 9780816067442.

Gr 9 Up–This exceptional set provides a wealth of information about the office of, and individual holders of, the American presidency. The first volume offers 19 essays about the origins, evolution, and institutional relationships of the presidency. The remaining volumes are divided into in-depth chapters that cover each administration, including a lengthy biographical essay and detailed articles about the man’s campaign(s), election(s), and time in office. Brief biographical sketches of first ladies and vice presidents and sidebars about some important societal trends or innovations add more information. The alphabetically arranged entries that follow the essays provide additional details about important political, social, economic, and literary events that occurred during each administration. Authors treat their subjects objectively, generally staying within mainstream historical viewpoints on earlier presidents and describing events and public reactions while reserving judgment about those who most recently served. The Obama administration is covered through mid 2012. Charts, electoral maps, time lines, and a bibliography complete the chapters. Average-quality photos and reproductions of period art and political cartoons supplement the text. An extensive index in the final volume and cross-referencing within chapters aid navigation. The authors develop themes and offer plenty of background and detail, resulting in articles that are so well written that they will help any user learn more about the men and the office. High reading levels and advanced analysis make the set best for high school students; for libraries that serve them, this is a must-have.–Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

Careers in Chemistry. 482p. ISBN 978-1-58765-993-5; ISBN 978-1-4298-3762-0. LC 2012044523.

Careers in Physics. 475p. ISBN 978-1-58765-992-8; ISBN 978-1-4298-3761-3. LC 2012044525.

ea vol: appendix. bibliog. chart. index. websites. Salem Press. 2013. Tr $95; ebook $95.

Gr 9 Up–As STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) occupations show positive growth trends, this series will guide high school and undergraduate students through traditional and emerging fields of study in chemistry and physics; it profiles scope, education, training, technology, earnings, applications, and related occupations. The more than 20 physics fields covered include acoustics, aeronautics, applied mechanics, optics, and thermodynamics, while chemistry fields include agricultural chemistry, electrochemistry, forensic science, pharmacology, and toxicology. The essays are readable and do a solid job of describing the field, its core concepts, and how it relates to other sciences. Other subsections address the impact on industry and where (such as within government) these jobs exist. Most engaging are the sidebar career-path interviews, such as one with a chemistry student who applied for a job at the dairy-science department of a college, knowing nothing more than he “liked milk,” and has since become a dairy-cattle disease expert. These personal snippets show how even the most well-thought-out plans change with opportunity, or with the guidance of an enthusiastic mentor. The Bureau of Labor Statistics supplies the projections and salary data, and skills related to green careers are marked with a green leaf symbol. A list of highly selective colleges for four-year programs is offered in an appendix, as well as lists of undergraduate majors, information portals, and web resources. Most valuable to librarians is the online access that accompanies the print volume; the material found there is easily searchable and integrated with other science reference products from the publisher.–Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY

CONGDON, Kristin G. & Kara Kelley Hallmark. American Folk Art: A Regional Reference. 728p. bibliog. diags. further reading. glossary. index. photos. reprods. ABC-CLIO. 2012. PLB $205. ISBN 978-0-313-34936-2; ebook $205. ISBN 978-0-313-34937-9.

Gr 7 Up–Expanding the scope of Gerard C. Wertkin’s Encyclopedia of American Folk Art  (Routledge, 2004) in a major way, the coauthors profile approximately 300 20th- and 21st-century folk artists at length. For each of the five regional chapters, they provide an extensive overview of the area’s historical background, populations, and distinctive cultures and traditions. Though some of the artists selected, such as Grandma Moses and Simon Rodia (the Watts Towers), have earned widespread recognition, most are unknown outside limited circles or localities. Among the several lists of contents that open each volume, the one grouping artists by their characteristic medium (from “Basket Maker” to “Boatbuilder” and from “Egg Painter” to “Horsehair Hitcher”) is particularly valuable for highlighting folk art’s amazing range of materials. The inventive uses to which those media have been put comes through clearly in the generous arrays of large black-and-white photos that accompany many entries. For serious students, the authors provide detailed information about their subjects’ lives, works, and critical receptions and offer comprehensive multimedia resource lists throughout. However, even readers with little or no interest in folk art will find it hard to page past lines such as, “Through divine inspiration, Jesse James Aaron used a chainsaw to create images of animals and people in wood” and “Ray Masterson embroiders small images of news events, drug buys, sports figures, and other famous people, and scenes from everyday life.” A narrowly focused but significant addition to both academic and public library reference collections.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, New York City

Contemporary Biographies in Chemistry. 301p. ISBN 978-1-58765-997-3. LC 2012044526.

Contemporary Biographies in Physics. 315p. ISBN 978-1-58765-996-6. LC 2012044527.

ea vol: appendix. bibliog. further reading. index. Salem Press. 2013. Tr $95.

Gr 6-9–Both of these titles reprint 31 arbitrarily chosen profiles originally published in Current Biography magazine, and, in a separate alphabet, 10 biographies of iconic scientists of the past in each field culled from the publisher’s “Great Lives” series. Each entry opens with an overview of its subject’s claim(s) to fame, then describes his or her career and, in relatively easy-to-understand language, “Life’s Work.” In contrast to Einstein, the Curies, and other figures in the historical rosters, the living (at the time of publication) scientists–ranging from particle physicist Peter Higgs (b. 1929) to climatologist Katharine Hayhoe (b. 1972) in the physics volume and Carl Djerassi (b. 1923), inventor of the first birth control pill, to maverick geneticist Eva Harris (b.1965) in the chemistry volume–are still on their way to becoming household names. All merit recognition, though, for significant discoveries or achievements. The lack of illustrations and, for the historical articles, reading lists, along with the cursory name and place indexes capping each volume leave room aplenty for improvement. However, researchers and general readers considering careers in the sciences or looking for role models will be more drawn to these convenient compilations than to the prospect of leafing through periodical files or broader resources such as Elizabeth H. Oakes’s Encyclopedia of World Scientists (Facts On File, 2007, rev. ed.). Each comes with a one-time activation key for a digital version.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, New York City

KRAWCZYNSKI, Keith. Daily Life in the Colonial City. 554p. (Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series: Daily Life in the United States Series).bibliog. illus. index. Greenwood. 2013. Tr $68. ISBN 9780313334191; ebook ISBN 9780313047046. LC 2012040054.

Gr 9 Up–No cobblestone goes unturned in this volume of the 20-year-old ongoing series. The 15 chapters cover settlement, government, family and community, religion, labor and economy, education, crime and punishment, poverty and poor relief, housing and street life, food and dining, clothing and cleanliness, health and medicine, recreation, arts and sciences, and urban rebellion. Within those broad categories, the rich details that made up the minutes and hours of Colonial life emerge. The details are all the more nuanced because they span class, ethnicity, and gender. The author integrates the juiciest plums from scores of period letters, diaries, and newspapers, invigorating the text with a real-life earthiness. Particularly telling are the anecdotes relating to personal relations. A philandering Philadelphian frequented brothels. When he contracted venereal disease, he swore, “Must keep away from my Wife.” Even subjects that get plenty of due in other history books are given more subtle, personal treatment here. Apprenticing, for instance, was not only a way for young people to learn a trade. It was common for poor families to sell their children into apprenticeships via “pauper auctions” and thus eliminate hungry mouths from their households. Each page is dense with text. That, in addition to the dearth of illustrations, might discourage some readers. Still, subsections within chapters are designated clearly with large, bold font and make finding specific information easier. The writing is straightforward, engaging, and accessible. Lengthy bibliographies round off each chapter of this terrific resource.–Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Libraries, NC

LIU, Charles. The Handy Astronomy Answer Book. 368p. index. Visible Ink Pr. Sept. 2013. pap. $21.95. ISBN 978-1-57859-419-1.

Gr 6 Up–Do your patrons wonder what an astrolabe is or how an X-ray telescope works? In this colorful, wide-ranging volume, notable astrophysicist Charles Liu provides answers to these questions and more about many aspects of the fascinating world of astronomy. The material is subdivided into seven categories: “Astronomy Fundamentals,” “The Universe,” “Stars,” “The Solar System,” “Space Programs,” “Astronomy Today,” and “Exploring the Solar System,” which are further divided into subtopics comprised of answers to questions; these well-written entries span an average of one to two paragraphs per topic. Within the text of the questions, pertinent terminology and concepts appear in bold type, making the book easy to skim. The strength of the work lies in this seamless accessibility that, combined with its concise and informative prose, engages readers as they move from the Earth, across the Milky Way, and beyond. A generous complement of illustrations is scattered throughout, adding immensely to what is already an awesome resource. Whether exploring the “God Particle,” the origins of the universe, or the development of space travel technologies, this reference, handy for working on research projects or general reading, is a recommended purchase for media centers and public libraries.–Brian Odom, Birmingham, AL

Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection. 388p. photos. reprods. Smithsonian. Oct. 2013. Tr $40. ISBN 978-1-58834-389-5.

Gr 9 Up–This attractive book uses artifacts and objects from the vast Smithsonian collection as the foundation for its history of the Civil War. Its 150 entries focus on important aspects of the antebellum and Civil War period, including slavery, sectionalism, the outbreak of war, battles and weapons, life on the battlefield and home fronts, Lincoln’s assassination, and the war’s end. Entries, which are arranged in roughly chronological order, each offer a single-page discussion of a topic and explanation of its significance. They are illustrated by one or more period or full-color photo(s) of an artifact or object that symbolizes or reflects the topic, ranging from Confederate money to the hoods used during the executions of the conspirators in Lincoln’s assassination. While some of the artifacts and images have been used in other publications, many have not been published before, and as a group, they provide a comprehensive overview of the Civil War and its impact. They also show readers how physical objects can contribute to an understanding and appreciation of history. This is a beautiful and well-written book, but it assumes some reader familiarity with the Civil War, and it doesn’t provide enough background information, in-depth coverage, or analysis to be very helpful to most teen researchers. It is similar in coverage and format to illustrated histories such as William J. Miller and Brian C. Pohanka’s An Illustrated History of the Civil War (Time-Life, 2000) and is better suited as a browsing item for Civil War buffs or an adult audience.–Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

World Book Discovery Encyclopedia. rev. ed. 13 vols. 2656p. chart. diag. illus. index. map. photos. reprods. World Book. 2013. Tr $389. ISBN 978-0-7166-7417-7. LC 2008035576.

Gr 3 Up–Crisp color images and concise information make up this update of the 2009 edition. In addition to material on notable individuals, events, animals, health topics, literature, holidays, and sports, readers will find features focusing on countries, states, provinces, and other topics. Each entry word is printed in color ink and is also underlined. Most entries also contain a full-color illustration with a color box including a caption. The material is complemented by guide words, cross-references, and pronunciation guidance, and the set also includes an atlas. The letters and volume numbers on the spines and covers are larger than in the earlier edition. The new pictures that accompany information on the camera; the cell phone; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Olympic Games; podcasts; the current Supreme Court of the United States; and toys; and several state seals are examples of image changes. Examples of updated entries include “Democratic Republic of Congo,” “Barack Obama,” and “Iraq War,” and new entries cover, for example, “Julia Gillard,” “Mitt Romney,” “Search Engine,” and “Willis Tower.” The new and updated material is not enough to warrant purchase in libraries that own the previous edition, but other libraries should consider this resource as it continues to serve as an engaging reference.–Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

SummerTeen 2015: #SLJTeenLive!
SummerTeen Join us on August 13, 2015 for a full day of free online programming tackling important issues impacting teen collection and programming. Hear directly from authors about their current and forthcoming titles, plus discussion panels focusing on critical teen issues and trends.