September 24, 2017

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5 Reference Titles for Armchair Travelers, Record Breakers, and More

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1704-Reference-CVsBig History: Examines Our Past, Explains Our Present, Imagines Our Future. 440p. chron. index. maps. photos. DK. Oct. 2016. Tr $50. ISBN 9781465454430.

Gr 6 Up –Tackling everything from the big bang to current efforts toward a sustainable future, this is a physically large volume with a sweeping scope. With minimal text and 300 pages of infographics, this is an amuse-bouche of history: just a bite of information that whets the appetite but does not satisfy. Created in consultation with directors and educational leaders at the Big History Institute at Macquarie University in Sydney, this title takes a broad, interdisciplinary approach to history through brief, pithy entries on a wide range of connected subjects. The layout is very similar to the entries in DK’s “Eyewitness” books. The work is divided into eight “thresholds” that cover astronomy; the formation of planets and solar systems; the emergence of life and humans, civilization, and industrialization. Also included are a series of time lines. This is a great introductory text on life, the universe, and everything. Unfortunately, unlike an encyclopedia, this selection will not lead readers to other sources that will give them a deeper appreciation of the subjects covered. VERDICT Though this isn’t ideal for report writers, it’s an engaging offering for browsers looking for a visually engaging overview of history.–Susanne Caro, University of Montana Library, Missoula

The Cities Book. 212p. illus. maps. photos. Lonely Planet. Sept. 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781786570192.

Gr 4-8 –Take a wild ride through 86 cities located all around the world. The journey begins with a two-page map of the world with the cities listed; readers can pick and choose which cities sound interesting to them and explore from there. The information provided is dynamic and accompanied by images and artifacts so that a mental picture of the city can be formed. Students will be captivated by the vibrant colors and photos depicting various sights, from the Walk of Fame in Los Angeles to the BMW headquarters in Munich. Additionally, for each city, there’s a map that pinpoints where it is located both within its country and in the world. Elementary and middle school students will love poring over these pages. VERDICT An ideal option for browsers that’s bound to rouse students’ interest in geography.–April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL

Guinness World Records 2017: Blockbusters! 216p. illus. index. photos. Guinness World Records. Jan. 2017. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781910561508.

Gr 3-7 –With sections such as “Watch,” “Browse,” “Play,” “Go,” and “Consume,” this title covers a wide array of pop culture and current trends, leaving esoteric world records such as “most people making sand angels” to its big brother, The Guinness Book of World Records. As usual, the photographs are stunning and the infographics noteworthy; both are a large part of the appeal of the Guinness books. Each spread has numerous entry points into the topic, so readers can jump right into whatever subject—be it emojis or console gaming—piques their curiosity. Each fact is clearly boxed and easy to read. Superlatives abound, of course, with entries including the largest collection of Winnie-the-Pooh memorabilia and the most-played trading card game. For added interest, interviews with some of the record-setters—for instance, Steve Blum, the most prolific voice actor—are sprinkled throughout. VERDICT Sure to be a hit among lovers of pop culture. Purchase where budgets allow.–Marie Drucker, Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library, NY

TIME for Kids Almanac 2017. 288p. index. photos. Time/Liberty Street. May 2017. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781618934154.

Gr 4-6 –Fortunately for many publishers, getting in on the almanac/list genre often proves advantageous—kids just seem to love these quick reads that are full of timely information and up-to-date facts. This almanac is chock-full of more than 600 color photos, depicting everything from adorable animals to Taylor Swift to current athletes. It’s a treasure trove of the hottest topics from 2016, designed in a graphically pleasing manner sure to entice elementary and early middle schoolers. Readers will enjoy learning about cool new inventions, apps, and record-breaking stats. The scope of this entertaining and educational title is broad, covering animals, art, sports, politics, medicine, energy, computers, and more. The section on the presidents stops at Barack Obama, and one other oddity stands out: the first ladies are listed with their maiden names, a nice addition that might be somewhat confusing to younger readers. VERDICT Great for list lovers, trivia fans, and reluctant readers who just want to browse. Guaranteed to circulate in school and public libraries.–Sharon Verbeten, Brown County Library, Green Bay, WI

Weeks, Marcus. Heads Up Money. 160p. diag. glossary. index. DK. Jan. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781465456267.

Gr 8 Up –Organized by topic, this reference book on economics and finance features a fun, colorful format. It’s easy to find concepts and terminology on a variety of subjects, from money to markets to investments to trade, and the glossary is well indexed and thorough. This title would work especially well for those seeking to understand a particular concept or a specific term. However, it isn’t a primer on economics. It doesn’t compare and contrast the motives and behaviors of consumers and producers or address classic economic questions such as, “What happens when there is scarcity?” Weeks doesn’t rely on real-world examples to illustrate concepts, and only a few ideas are defined using statistics or data. This omission means that this volume won’t become dated, but readers will need to go elsewhere to see actual applications of these theories. VERDICT Recommended as a companion to a current events or economics course.–Amy Thurow, Rome Corners ­Intermediate School, Oregon, WI

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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