November 18, 2017

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Life’s Work: New Nonfiction on Careers & Biographies | Series Made Simple

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Careers—and famous people who exemplify them—are inextricably connected. For this reason, many of these titles naturally go together. “Digital Career Building” is a good fit with the “STEM Trailblazer Bios,” while some of the “The World’s Coolest Jobs” titles will go perfectly with “Pro Wrestling Superstars.” These titles offer great opportunities to not only show students what famous people have accomplished but also how they, too, can make similar strides. In these interesting and varied series, you’ll find titles that will engage your youngest readers as well as middle and high school students.

Preschool to Grade 4

Barnham, Kay. Isaac Newton. ISBN 9781410962355; ISBN 9781410962423. LC 2013014216.

––––. Thomas Edison. ISBN 9781410962393; ISBN 9781410962461. LC 2013014220.

Chambers, Catherine. Alexander Graham Bell. ISBN 9781410962386; ISBN 9781410962454. LC 2013014219.

––––. Neil Armstrong. ISBN 9781410962379; ISBN 9781410962447. LC 2013014218.

Hunter, Nick. Louis Pasteur. ISBN 9781410962362; ISBN 9781410962430. LC 2013014217.

Labrecque, Catherine. George Washington Carver. ISBN 9781410962409; ISBN 9781410962478. LC 2013014221.

ea vol: 32p. (Science Biographies Series). bibliog. chron. diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. reprods. websites. Capstone. 2014. lib. ed. $29.99. pap. $7.99.

Gr 2-4 –Each volume of this visually appealing series is presented with well-reproduced, captioned photos, text, and fact boxes. The font is on the large side, and students will find the writing style accessible. The books place the subjects’ lives in the historical period of their time (George Washington Carver, for example, discusses the inventor within the context of slavery and racism). However, because all of these subjects are commonly found in other series, these titles aren’t must-haves. Solid, but not exceptional.

Berne, Emma Carlson. Run Your Own Babysitting Business. ISBN 9781477729229.

––––. Run Your Own Bake Sale. ISBN 9781477729182.

––––. Run Your Own Car Wash. ISBN 9781477729205.

––––. Run Your Own Recycling Business. ISBN 9781477729236.

––––. Run Your Own Yard Sale. ISBN 9781477729199.

––––. Run Your Own Yard-Work Business. ISBN 9781477761250.

ea vol: 32p. (Young Entrepreneurs Series). glossary. index. websites. PowerKids. 2014. lib. ed. $25.25.

Gr 3-5 –Each volume of this charming series explains the process of a successful business from idea to sales. They capture not only the excitement of the enterprise but also the hard work and expense. The layout is inviting, with captioned photos, text done in a large, clear font, and “Tip Central” features of extra information. The only weakness is that some of the photos depict children who are younger than the books’ target audience. Each title ends with a checklist of tasks to be completed.

Colins, Luke. George Washington Carver. ISBN 9781476539577; ISBN 9781476551616. LC 2013024397.

––––. Mae Jemison. ISBN 9781476539546; ISBN 9781476551586. LC 2013037674.

––––. Thurgood Marshall. ISBN 9781 476539560; ISBN 9781476551609. LC 2013037676.

Flynn, Riley. Bessie Coleman. ISBN 9781 476539553; ISBN 9781476551593. LC 2013035322.

––––. Booker T. Washington. ISBN 9781 476539522; ISBN 9781476551562. LC 2013035321.

––––. Martin Luther King Jr. ISBN 9781476539539; ISBN 9781476551579. LC 2013035323.

ea vol: ed. by Gail Saunders-Smith. 24p. (Great African-Americans Series). bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2014. lib. ed. $21.32. pap. $5.95.

K-Gr 2 –Including both usual (Martin Luther King Jr.) and less usual (Mae Jemison) subjects, this early reader series is a solid addition to the several series out there. Using simple vocabulary, large font, plenty of white space, a traditional layout, and only two-to-four sentences per page, the books are very accessible. Some photographs are less crisp than they could be, and only some are captioned. Big bonuses are the small size of the books and the cumulative time line that runs at the bottom of each double-page spread.

Goldish, Meish. City Firefighters. ISBN 9781627240970. LC 2013041503.

––––. Hotshots. ISBN 9781627240994. LC 2013035389.

––––. Marine Firefighters. ISBN 9781627240987. LC 2013034721.

––––. Smokejumpers. ISBN 9781627241007. LC 2013041504.

White, Nancy. Aviation Firefighters. ISBN 9781627240963. LC 2013041505.

ea vol: 32p. (Fire Fight! The Bravest Series). bibliog. chart. ebook available. diag. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bearport. 2014. lib. ed. $26.60.

Gr 3-5 –Future firefighters will relish this series, as it relates all of the most dangerous positions in the field. Each title begins by discussing a real-life emergency situation, then moves into the specific duties, training, tools, and dangers of the job. The authors incorporate many examples and situations, both successes and failures. The writing is interesting and includes bolded words that are found in the glossary. The layout is inviting, with full-color captioned photos, fact boxes, diagrams, headings, and large print text. Though the focus is narrow, overall, this is a very worthwhile series.

Harbo, Christopher L. Bill Gates. ISBN 9781476596419; ISBN 9781476596457. LC 2013035614.

Schuette, Sarah L. Milton Hershey. ISBN 9781476596402; ISBN 9781476596440. LC 2013035613.

––––. Wallace “Famous” Amos. ISBN 9781476596396; ISBN 9781476596433. LC 2013035616.

Shores, Erika L. Sam Walton. ISBN 9781 476596426; ISBN 9781476596464.

ea vol: ed. by Gail Saunders-Smith. 24p. (Business Leaders Series). bibliog. chron. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2014. ebk. $21.32. pap. $5.95.

K-Gr 2 –As appropriate for the audience, each book in this series tells a linear story with large font, plenty of white space, and simple vocabulary. They are small in size, and the layout is traditional, featuring spreads with photos (not all captioned, however) and text on the opposite page. A big bonus is the cumulative timeline that runs at the bottom of each spread. Subjects are either names that may be recognized (e.g. Bill Gates) or individuals that represent well-known products (e.g. Milton Hershey). Solid early-reader biographies.

Scheff, Matt. CM Punk. ISBN 97816240 31359. LC 2013945878.

––––. John Cena. ISBN 9781624031342. LC 2013945676.

––––. Kofi Kingston. ISBN 9781624031366. LC 2013945681.

––––. Randy Orton. ISBN 9781624031380. LC 2013945680.

––––. Ray Mysterio. ISBN 9781624031373. LC 2013945692.

––––. The Rock. ISBN 9781624031397. LC 2013945678.

––––. Triple H. ISBN 9781624031403. LC 2013945682.

––––. Undertaker. ISBN 9781624031410. LC 2013945679.

ea vol: 32p. (Pro Wrestling Superstars Series). chron. glossary. index. photos. ABDO. 2014. lib. ed. $27.07.

Gr 3-5 –Series books on pro wrestlers are abundant, and this one adds very little to the field. Because it’s aimed at the younger crowd, with very little text and full-page, full-color, graphic photos, the content is somewhat inappropriate for its intended audience. Each title begins with a high point in the wrestler’s career, then backtracks to his childhood and relates his rise to stardom. Fact boxes of additional information are included. Nowhere is the staging and theatrics of the sport alluded to, and no resources are included in the back matter.

Suen, Anastasia. iPod and Electronics Visionary Tony Fadell. ISBN 9781467724562; ISBN 9781467724814. LC 2013026974.

Suen, Anastasia. Alternate Reality Game Designer Jane McGonigal. ISBN 9781467724586; ISBN 9781467724883. LC 2013026971.

Ventura, Marne. Astrophysicist and Space Advocate Neil deGrasse Tyson. ISBN 9781467724616; ISBN 9781467724913. LC 2013026972.

––––. Google Glass and Robotics Innovator Sebastian Thrun. ISBN 9781467724593; ISBN 9781467724890. LC 2013028641.

Wooster, Patricia. Flickr Cofounder and Web Community Creator Caterina Fake. ISBN 9781467724609; ISBN 9781467724906. LC 2013028641.

––––. YouTube Founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim. ISBN 9781 467724579; ISBN 9781467724821. LC 2013026971.

ea vol: 32p. (STEM Trailblazer Bios Series). chron. diag. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Lerner. Apr. 2014. lib. ed. $26.60. ebk. $19.95.

Gr 3-5 –This rather unique series takes on some high-interest topics (reality game designer, robotics inventor, astrophysicist) and pairs them with high-profile individuals in those respective fields. Their stories begin with a pivotal point in the person’s childhood that piqued their interest in the career, then builds to adulthood, covering highlights, contributions, and ways they’ve shared their accomplishments with others within, and outside of, the field. Fact boxes of additional information, quotations, and well-produced and clearly captioned, full-color photographs are interspersed throughout the attractive layout. However, the writing is rather pedestrian.

Wood, Alix. Animal Handler. ISBN 9781 477760079.

––––. Drone Operator. ISBN 9781477760239.

––––. Explosives Expert. ISBN 9781477760116.

––––. Stunt Performer. ISBN 9781477759998.

––––. Test Pilot. ISBN 9781477760192.

––––. Video Game Designer. ISBN 9781 477760154.

ea vol: 32p. (The World’s Coolest Jobs Series). further reading. glossary. index. websites. PowerKids. 2014. lib. ed. $25.25.

Gr 3-6 –This series will certainly grab the attention of budding adventurers: test pilots, stunt performers, animal handlers, and explosive experts, to name a few. Each volume begins with the basics about the career (though given the nature of the topic, the authors may have missed an opportunity to lead with an action-oriented, high-octane situation), then goes on to explain the history and education needed to perform the job. The authors explain the duties, physical demands, equipment, and newest technology involved. These titles also discuss how the career fits in with other related fields. The tepid writing is a weakness, though the layout is attractive and accessible, featuring captioned photos, diagrams, “Fact Files,” and “That’s Cool” trivia.

Grades 5 & Up

Burgan, Michael. Hillary Clinton. ISBN 9781 410959416; ISBN 9781410959492. LC 2013017128.

Doak, Robin S. Michelle Obama. ISBN 9781410959409; ISBN 9781410959485. LC 2013017126.

Gallagher, Brigid. Sonia Sotomayor. ISBN 9781410959461; ISBN 9781410959546. LC 2013017183.

Hunter, Nick. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. ISBN 9781410959423; ISBN 9781410959508. LC 2013017130.

––––. Suzanne Collins. ISBN 9781410959447; ISBN 9781410959522. LC 2013017145.

ea vol: 48p. (Extraordinary Women Series). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Heinemann-Raintree. 2014. lib. ed. $32.00. pap. $8.99.

Gr 5-8 –One of the strongest suits of this middle school series is the inviting layout with short chapters, numerous subheadings, and plenty of sidebars of additional information. For example, sidebars titled “Then and Now” add historical context. Each subject’s story begins with her latest accomplishment, flashes back to her childhood, and then relates highlights of her life chronologically. Both the positives and the negatives are told. Many captioned photos are included; however, the cover photos are rather unflattering. The only other weakness is some slightly stilted writing.

Byers, Ann. Jump-Starting a Career in Dietetics & Nutrition. ISBN 9781477716915.

Culp, Jennifer. Jump-Starting Careers as Medical Assistants & Certified Nursing Assistants. ISBN 9781477716977.

Freedman, Jeri. Jump-Starting a Career in Hospitals & Home Health Care. ISBN 9781477716960.

Lusted, Marcia Amidon. Jump-Starting a Career in Medical Technology. ISBN 9781477716946.

––––. Jump-Starting a Career in Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation. ISBN 9781477716953.

Nagle, Jeanne. Jump-Starting a Career in Health Information, Communication & Record Keeping. ISBN 9781477716922.

Orr, Tamra. Jump-Starting a Career in Pharmaceuticals. ISBN 9781477716939.

ea vol: 80p. (Health Care Careers in 2 Years Series). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. websites. Rosen Young Adult. 2014. lib. ed. $$33.25.

Gr 7 Up –The research that’s gone into this series is obvious from the full explanations of these very technical careers. The books cover individual jobs, duties, education, technology, job searches, and promotion. Each volume begins with an example of the kind of work an individual in the field would do and includes personal examples and interviews with experts throughout. Helpful charts condense information, and captioned photos add interest. Weaknesses include rather light font, making it a bit difficult to read, and glossaries that needs to be more extensive for such technical topics.


The reviewed sets are varied indeed—in subject matter, time period, career paths, and audience, as well as in quality. Bold colors, intriguing photos, and varied layouts result in some attractive and informative titles, while the storytelling in many of the books makes for interesting reading. “Fire Fight!: The Bravest” hits the mark on all of those characteristics. Though many series are aimed at middle and high school students, several are excellent starters for the younger readers: “Young Entrepreneurs,” “Business Leaders,” and “Great African-Americans.” Some series will be attention grabbers (“The World’s Coolest Jobs”), whereas others address well-trod ground (“Science Biographies”). Many of the series promote worthy subjects, though others are questionable for the targeted audience. Professional judgment on your part will decide which of the series listed here are worthy of purchase.

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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