November 22, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

History Everywhere: World History | Series Made Simple

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The topics of this group of geographically diverse books range from the ancient to the nearly contemporary. Many conform to Common Core State Standards and help students respond more fully to what they read. These titles demonstrate that history can be as close as one’s own hometown or as distant as the other side of the world. They offer guidance on how to find and interpret materials—ranging from family documents to vast resources available online. As students read the best of this group, they will not only learn about historical cultures and events, but also be inspired to better know and understand the past.

Preschool to Grade 4

Doeden, Matt. Tools and Treasures of Ancient Egypt. ISBN 9781467714297; ISBN 9781467725057. LC 2013015642.

––––. Tools and Treasures of Ancient Greece. ISBN 9781467714303; ISBN 9781467725064. LC 2013017735.

––––. Tools and Treasures of Ancient Mesopotamia. ISBN 9781467714327; ISBN 9781467725071. LC 2013018664.

––––. Tools and Treasures of Ancient Rome. ISBN 9781467714334; ISBN 9781467725088. LC 201322290.

––––. Tools and Treasures of the Ancient Maya. ISBN 9781467714310; ISBN 9781467725095. LC 2013020472.

Ransom, Candice. Tools and Treasures of Ancient China. ISBN 9781467714280; ISBN 9781467725040. LC 2013022271.

ea vol: 40p. (Searchlight Books – What Can We Learn from Early Civilizations?). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. reprods. websites. Lerner. Feb. 2014. lib. ed. $27.93. ebk. $20.95.

Gr 3-5 –Written to meet new standards that introduce ancient cultures in the early grades, these books share a common format centered on large, full-color photos and illustrations of artifacts or scenes of daily life in the culture. Each book’s four chapters introduce the country’s culture and describe its people’s daily lives, major achievements, and eventual decline or conquest.;Text is limited to a few sentences per page, providing ample space for the set’s strongest element, the high-quality illustrative material. Captions provide nearly as much information as the text, and some ask questions to guide reading or elicit critical thinking. Each book includes a full-page map and retelling of the culture’s creation story or important folklore. Although not exceptional, these books provide basic introductory information and a good visual history of each culture’s material treasures, making them strong additional purchases for elementary schools.

Jenson-Elliott, Cindy. Arctic Communities: Past and Present. ISBN 9781476540603; ISBN 9781476551425.

––––. Desert Communities: Past and Present. ISBN 9781476540597; ISBN 9781476551418.

O’Hara, Megan. Plains Communities: Past and Present. ISBN 9781476540610; ISBN 9781476551432.

Smith-Llera, Danielle. River Communities: Past and Present. ISBN 9781476540580; ISBN 9781476551401.

ea vol: 24p. (Who Lived Here?). further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. photos. reprods. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2014. lib. ed. $24.65. pap. $6.95.

Gr 2-4 –A simple time-line organizational structure traces the settlement and migration of peoples, from the earliest Native Americans to the present, within American geographic environments. Each double-page spread has a summary (with dates) of how the successive communities adapted or changed their environmentseand on the the facing page on one page and a large, captioned photograph or reproduction of a period illustration on the facing pageother. Authors emphasize the positive contributions of groups and minimizes conflicts among them. Terms are defined on each page, and books end with an “Amazing but True” page, a set of two questions based on elements of Common Core instruction, and a code for access to screened content on Capstone’s “Fact Hound” website. These attractive offerings provide an easily understood introduction to how geography influences migration and societal structures and affects the lives of people “past and present,” Solid choices for emerging readers.

Levy, Janey. 20 Fun Facts About Machu Picchu. ISBN 9781482404524.

Nelson, Drew. 20 Fun Facts About the Colosseum. ISBN 9781482404623.

Niver, Heather Moore. 20 Fun Facts About Easter Island. ISBN 9781482404470.

Rajczak, Kristen. 20 Fun Facts About the Great Pyramid. ISBN 9781482404678.

Sabatino, Michael. 20 Fun Facts About Stonehenge. ISBN 9781482404579.

Shea, Therese. 20 Fun Facts About the Great Wall of China. ISBN 9781482404722.

ea vol: 32p. (Fun Fact File: World Wonders!). glossary. illus. index. diags. maps. photos. Gareth Stevens. Mar. 2014. lib. ed. $25.25.

Gr 2-5 –A combination of outstanding illustrative material and engaging writing gives emerging readers an appealing introduction to some of the world’s most important historical landmarks and the cultures that produced them. is covered on a single page and briefly describes interesting or unique aspects of the ancient culture, the construction or purpose of some part of the landmark, or theirits significance. Large color location photos, archival illustrations, maps, diagrams and cutaway drawings will help readers understand the enormous scope of the projects and the innovation and effort necessary for construction. Informative captions augment the main text of each page. By the time readers finish the lively and truly “fun facts” in these books, they will know much more about these fabulous places and how and why they were built. Excellent choices for all elementary libraries.

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Grades 5 & Up

Barber, Nicola. Who Broke the Wartime Codes? ISBN 9781432996062; ISBN 9781432996130. LC 2013015848.

––––. Who Journeyed on the Mayflower? ISBN 9781432996024; ISBN 9781432996093. LC 2013015844.

Morris, Neil. Who Traveled to the Moon? ISBN 9781432996055; ISBN 9781432996123. LC 2013015847.

Senker, Cath. Who Traveled the Underground Railroad? ISBN 9781432996031; ISBN 9781432996109. LC 2013015845.

Spilsbury, Richard. Who Marched for Civil Rights? ISBN 9781432996048; ISBN 9781432996116. LC 2013015846.

––––. Who Protested Against the Vietnam War? ISBN 9781432996079; ISBN 9781432996147. LC 2013015849.

ea vol: 64p. (Primary Source Detectives). bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. maps. notes. charts. photos. reprods. websites. Heinemann-Raintree. Jan. 2014. lib. ed. $35.00. pap. $9.99.

Gr 6-10 –Using a question-and-answer organizational format, books begin with an account of a dramatic incident, followed by chapters that ask and answer questions about the subject’s background, main events, and historical significance. Although most of the topics are American history, authors discuss their relevance to world history. “History Detectives” sidebars introduce readers to the basics of primary source research, such as how to find, critically evaluate, and use sources. Maps, charts, and large illustrations and photos add interest, sidebars introduce important figures, excerpt documents, or pose critical thinking questions. This set differs from “Everything Has a History” in that this setbooks are basically traditional single-topic histories with additional information about primary source research. Topics have received wide extant coverage, but these titles provide enough material and research guidance to be good supplementary report choices.

redstarBerne, Emma Carlson. Summiting Everest: How a Photograph Celebrates Teamwork at the Top of the World. ISBN 9780756547349; ISBN 9780756547905.

redstarBurgan, Michael. Tank Man: How a Photograph Defined China’s Protest Movement. ISBN 9780756547318; ISBN 9780756547875. LC 2013031196.

redstarNardo, Don. The Blue Marble: How a Photograph Revealed Earth’s Fragile Beauty. ISBN 9780756547325; ISBN 9780756547882. LC 2013031184.

redstar––––. Hitler in Paris: How a Photograph Shocked a World at War. ISBN 9780756547332; ISBN 9780756547899. LC 2013030415.

ea vol: 64p. (Captured World History). bibliog. chron. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Capstone/Compass Point. Jan. 2014. lib. ed. $33.99. pap. $8.95.

Gr 6 Up –This outstanding follow-up to Capstone’s “Captured History” series continues the same format, focusing on a single, emblematic photograph that defines an era or event. Authors combine the stories of the photographs with the events they portray, including details about the photographer and the circumstances in which the image was taken. The photo and the event are both placed into historical context, with analysis of both its immediate and continuing impact.; The books contain plenty of background information and are exceptionally attractive, with numerous large photos that form a visual record of the subject and sidebars that offer details about related topics. This set will show students how a single image can “capture” history and influence the perceptions and actions of those who see it. The books will certainly draw a large readership and are must-buys for all middle-level and secondary collections.

Bramwell, Neil D. Discover Ancient China. ISBN 9780766041943. LC 2012011570.

––––. Discover Ancient Egypt. ISBN 9780766041950. LC 2012011571.

––––. Discover Ancient Persia. ISBN 9780766041981. LC 2012011574.

Feinstein, Stephen. Discover Ancient Mesopotamia. ISBN 9780766041974. LC 2012011573.

Kops, Deborah. Discover Ancient Rome. ISBN 9780766041998. LC 2012011576.

O’Connell, Kim A. Discover Ancient Greece. ISBN 9780766041967. LC 2012011572.

ea vol: 104p. (Discover Ancient Civilizations). chron. further reading. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Enslow. Jan. 2014. lib. ed. $31.93.

Gr 5-8 –Going into more depth than many ancient history titles for this age group, these books describe the origins, organization, culture and religion, daily lives, and declines and falls of ancient civilizations. The extra detail is a welcome change from many recent sets that emphasize illustrations over text, and the format allows for ample background and enough information to help readers to develop their knowledge of each culture and its importance and contributions to world civilization.; Large maps and full color photos of locations and artifacts enhance the texts. The strengths of these titles are partially offset by occasional dryness, and these civilizations have been widely covered in many extant titles, factors that make this set a supplemental report choice rather than a first purchase.

Cohen, Robert Z. Discovering the Asante Kingdom. ISBN 9781477718803.

Cohen. Robert Z. Discovering the Empire of Ghana. ISBN 9781477718827.

La Bella, Laura. Discovering the Songhay Empire. ISBN 9781477718858.

Leavitt, Amie Jane. Discovering the Kingdom of Benin. ISBN 9781477718841.

Shea. Therese. Discovering Egyptian Dynasties. ISBN 9781477718810.

Wolny, Philip. Discovering the Empire of Mali. ISBN 9781477718834.

ea vol: 64p. (Exploring African Civilizations). chron. further reading. glossary. index. maps. websites. Rosen Central. Mar. 2014. lib. ed. $31.95.

Gr 5-8 –Based upon discoveries made possible by recent advances in research techniques, five of these six books discuss the history of sub-Saharan African kingdoms from about 800 CE to the 20th century. All, except Egyptian Dynasties, were located near the Gold and Ivory Coasts of Western Africa, and authors describe the origins, development, contributions, and eventual decline of each civilization. They emphasize how rulers and chiefs shaped each empire and its contributions to African culture. Most include information about the present and objectively discuss the historical and contemporary role of Islam in the region. Large, color photos of artifacts are a strong point, but the few maps that are included are either historical or lack detail. Additionally, some of the discussions of rulers and succession struggles are dry. Despite those weaknesses, the scarcity of material about this region makes these books suitable report purchases.

Langley, Andrew. Every Building Has a History. ISBN 9781432995836; ISBN 9781432995881. LC 2013017189.

––––. Every Place Has a History. ISBN 9781432995850; ISBN 9781432995904. LC 2013017193.

Vickers, Rebecca. Every Person Has a History. ISBN 9781432995843; ISBN 9781432995898. LC 2013017192.

––––. Every Possession Has a History. ISBN 9781432995867; ISBN 9781432995911. LC 2013017267.

ea vol: 64p. (Everything Has a History). bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Heinemann-Raintree. Jan. 2014. lib. ed. $35.00. pap. $9.99.

Gr 7-10 –Authors begin these original and well-written books with a historical mystery solved through the research of amateur or professional historians, followed by examples of successful historical investigations in all parts of the world. Some, such as the search for the location of Viking settlements in North America or the restoration of the Parthenon, are globally significant, while others may be important only to a family or community. All encourage students to begin research and offer clear suggestions about processes or sources to help them in their own investigations, either on featured topics or projects of their own choosing. Color maps, photographs and reproductions of documents are well suited to the texts. These books could spark class or individual projects, but their main strength is their demonstration that everything indeed does have a history and that students can enhance their knowledge of the past with their own historical investigations.

Samuels, Charlie. D-Day: 1944. ISBN 9781781210406.

––––. Europe and North Africa: 1939-1945. ISBN 9781781210383.

––––. The Pacific: 1941-1945. ISBN 9781781210413.

––––. The Third Reich: 1923-1945. ISBN 9781781210390.

ea vol: 48p. (World War II: Day by Day). chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Brown Bear. Mar. 2014. lib. ed. $35.65.

Gr 4-8 –Best described as annotated time lines, these chronologically arranged books provide brief descriptions of important World War II events. Each opens with a general introduction, followed by two-page spreads that include the dated entries; an “Eyewitness” excerpt; a sidebar with information about a person, turning point, strategy, or weapons and equipment; and three small period photos. The lack of maps here is a major weakness. The best of the group is D-Day, which has a limited scope that helps readers grasp the operation’s complexity and uncertainties. The other books have a more ambitious focus but don’t provide context, and thus readers are likely to see them as lists of seemingly unrelated events. This set will be of little help to report writers and is unlikely to hold the attention of general readers.


Most of the books in this group are histories of places or cultures that we have read about before. Four sets in particular, however, improve on previous efforts or provide new perspective. The best is Capstone’s “Captured World History,” which makes a single, iconic photograph the start-ing point for objective, well-written and beautifully illustrated information. Gareth Stevens’s “Fun Fact File: World Wonders!” runs a close second, with lively writing and outstanding illus-trations that will entertain emerging readers as it educates them. Other sets, reflecting changes publishers are making to align their products with the Common Core Standards, attempt to prompt more active reader responses, such as Heinemann’s “Everything Has a History,” which tells some fascinating stories and suggests research tools and sources students can use to make history a more important part of their own lives. Capstone’s “Who Lived Here?” offers emerging readers a readable, attractive introduction to the interactions between geography and migration on patterns of human settlement. Most of the remaining sets are adequate for reports and assign-ments or as supplementary purchases based upon specific collection needs.

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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