October 18, 2017

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Reference Titles on the Presidents, Geography, & Science

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redstarBausum, Ann. Our Country’s Presidents: A Complete Encyclopedia of the U.S. Presidency. 224p. chart. chron. further reading. index. maps. photos. reprods. National Geographic. Jan. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781426326851.

Gr 4-7 –A clear, colorful design; a variety of sidebars; and rich historical material make this a solid, go-to resource for information on the presidents. The text is chronologically organized into six parts, each of which features a two-page time line delineating significant events. Each entry begins with a fact box that includes the president’s signature, date of birth, political party, and salient details such as the names of vice presidents and first ladies. Among sober assessments of the presidents’ achievements, fun facts abound. Sidebars cover a range of topics, such as the powers of the presidency, presidential landmarks, and kids in the White House. The volume is extravagantly illustrated with reproductions of contemporaneous paintings, as well as facsimiles of letters, engravings, maps, cutaways, charts (depicting, for example, presidential career paths), and numerous photographs. A comprehensive chart lays out results of every election. Bausum offers a two-page overview of the 2016 election, outlining some of Donald Trump’s controversial actions and statements during the campaign and suggesting a parallel to the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Published in January 2017, the book includes a one-page summary of Trump’s wealthy upbringing and background in real estate and reality TV. VERDICT Whether for research or casual reading, this is an excellent ready reference on the presidents for most libraries.–Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA

Frey, Marc & Todd Davis. The New Big Book of U.S. Presidents 2016 Edition. 56p. chron. glossary. photos. reprods. Running Pr. Jan. 2017. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9780762460601.

Gr 2-6 –Featuring simple profiles highlighting each president’s successes and challenges, this book begins with an introduction to the U.S. Constitution and an explanation of the changing role of the president over time. Fascinating historical tidbits are peppered throughout, and a time line runs across every page to enhance understanding of events occurring under each leader. Donald Trump’s profile is limited to basic biographical details and a brief look at his campaign. The author cautiously touches on the controversy Trump has stirred up (“Not everyone was a fan of Trump, however…. Still, his outspokenness appealed to many”), and a sidebar discusses how in 2015 Trump called for a “Muslim ban.” Frey presents a balanced perspective of most of the presidents. It is challenging to provide material that is neither too superficial nor too overwhelming, and as a result, some aspects of history are glossed over. Minor inaccuracies are found throughout (a small error in the definition of the term triangular trade, a slight mistake in the order of the 1903 time line, and an oversight in Ronald Reagan’s description as the oldest person ever elected president). One major flaw is the claim that Bill Clinton “used force” in Rwanda when in fact he lobbied for a decreased UN presence and offered no direct U.S. support. This text is enlightening, entertaining, and accessible for younger readers, though it hasn’t been revised much from earlier versions. VERDICT Collections that already have a previous edition should skip this one.–Paige Rowse, Needham High School, MA

Science Year by Year: A Visual History, from Stone Tools to Space Travel. 288p. chron. glossary. illus. index. DK. Mar. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781465457585.

Gr 5-8 –This browsing item offers select highlights in the progress of science and technology, from the 3.3 million–year–old stone tools discovered near Kenya’s Lake Turkana to the flight of the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for 2018. Select is the key word here, as the discoveries and inventions flanking the time line ribbon that runs across the middle of each page never result in a crowded look. The designer does take occasional liberties—misleadingly putting a photo of a Japanese ceramic pot from the middle Jomon period in an incongruous place on the time line, for instance. Overall, however, the bright, inviting mix of color pictures and concise commentary, enhanced with cross references and frequent breaks for more in-depth examinations of significant advances or figures, will give readers a good sense of what (or who) came along when. A closing “Reference” section adds scattershot but informative overviews of modern sciences and major scientists of the past. VERDICT This volume is no substitute for comprehensive chronologies, such as the one found in Brenda Wilmouth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner’s Scientific Thought in Context, but for middle school browsers or students needing a quick refresher, it merits consideration as a useful update or replacement for Robert Dinwiddie’s ­Science Year by Year or Lisa Rezende’s Chronology of Science.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, New York

Where on Earth? Atlas. 160p. glossary. illus. index. maps. notes. DK. Mar. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781465458643.

Gr 3-7 –Opening with a geological history of the earth, this comprehensive and colorful world atlas devotes a section to each continent. An additional section looks at the oceans. A variety of maps are featured: physical and political, as well as those highlighting population, climate, and landmarks. Information about the different continents and countries (longest coastline, longest bridge) is included. The well-drawn maps are complemented by attractive photographs and solid, clearly presented material. Maps depicting continents in all black, with dazzling sparkles of light to depict populous areas, are a particularly intriguing addition. VERDICT While this volume is certainly extremely useful for students writing reports, browsers will also enjoy perusing the fascinating tidbits interspersed throughout.–Margaret Nunes, Gwinnett County Public Library, GA

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

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