September 21, 2017

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9 Nonfiction Series for Back-to-School Reading

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Elementary

Alexander, Heather. Dinosaurs: With 100 Questions and 70 Flaps To Lift! ISBN 9781847809049.

––––. Jungle: With 100 Questions and 70 Flaps To Lift! ISBN 9781847809070.

ea vol: illus. by Andrés Lozano. 16p. (Life On Earth). Wide Eyed Editions. Aug. 2017. Tr $12.99.
Gr 1-3–Two inquisitive children, a boy and a girl, take a hands-on approach to dinosaurs and the jungle habitat in this interactive lift-the-flap series. In each book, spreads are organized around a central theme; for instance, the “Look Inside” spread in Dinosaurs explores fossils, and, in Jungle, insects and rodents that “hide” or burrow. Readers are prompted to find out the answer to intriguing questions, such as “How do we know that dinosaurs had a good sense of smell?,” by lifting the flap. Some explanations are short and sweet, while others provide more depth. Overall, an impressive amount of information is covered. Lozano’s use of muted colors and rounded edges, done with a colored pencil-like effect, lends the artwork a vintage vibe. Bound in a sturdy hardcover with board pages, librarians can purchase with relative confidence.

Bisson, Michelle. Hedy’s Journey: The True Story of a Hungarian Girl Fleeing the Holocaust. illus. by El primo Ramón. ISBN 9781515769941.

Ventura, Marne. Kunkush: The True Story of a Refugee Cat. illus. by Beidi Guo. ISBN 9781515773191.

ea vol: 40p. (Encounter: Narrative Nonfiction Picture Books). chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $28.65.

Gr 2-5–These two additions to the series center on refugee stories in an accessible picture book format. Hedy’s Journey is based on the author’s mother’s account of fleeing to the United States as a teen during the Holocaust—and all of the tribulations in between. Bisson effectively communicates the high level of stress and danger, while also emphasizing the value of love and family. The illustrator’s color palette of gray, sepia, and a subdued dusty pink (for Hedy’s clothing) suits the historical time period. There are no swastika’s depicted in the illustrations. Kunkush is the true story of a cat who was reunited with his family of Iraqi refugees after being separated from them when they reached the shore of the Greek island Lesbos. Ventura’s narrative follows Kunkush and the amazing network of people who worked to bring him back to his owners. Guo’s graphic design–like artwork is suffused with light and shadow, blues and oranges. Overall, the entries are a bit text heavy but should work well in a small group or one-on-one setting.

Braun, Eric. Rumpelstiltskin: An Interactive Fairy Tale Adventure. illus. by Alan Brown. ISBN 9781515787754; ISBN 9781515787778.

Doeden, Matt. Hansel and Gretel: An Interactive Fairy Tale Adventure. illus. by Sabrina Miramon. ISBN 9781515769446; ISBN 9781515769521.

Gunderson, Jessica. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: An Interactive Fairy Tale Adventure. illus. by Sabrina Miramon. ISBN 9781515769439; ISBN 9781515769514.

Jakubowski, Michele. Rapunzel: An Interactive Fairy Tale Adventure. illus. by Federica Frenna. ISBN 9781515787761; ISBN 9781515787785.

ea vol: 112p. (You Choose: Fractured Fairy Tales). further reading. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $31.99. pap. $6.95.

Gr 3-6–A plethora of engrossing adventures await readers. In addition to the page-turning “Choose Your Own Adventure” element, readers are also given the opportunity, after the first chapter, to choose what type of genre they want to explore (e.g., “Snow White” but with a spy thriller twist or set in the Arctic). The path that follows the witch’s point-of-view in Hansel and Gretel unfolds as a comedy of errors and will elicit laughs from those familiar with the original tale. Illustrations are sprinkled throughout, providing visual interest and places for readers to pause. In each title, an ending “Other Paths to Explore” section prompts students to reflect on the role of perspective in storytelling and to create their own fractured tale. Mostly entertaining but with thoughtful elements, these titles will circulate well where fairy tales and the “Choose” format are popular.

Di Piazza, Domenica. Space Engineer and Scientist Margaret Hamilton. ISBN 9781512434507.

Marsico, Katie. Genius Physicist Albert Einstein. ISBN 9781512434514.

––––. Inventor, Engineer, and Physicist Nikola Tesla. ISBN 9781512434484.

Schwartz, Heather E. Astronaut Ellen Ochoa. ISBN 9781512434491.

––––. NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson. ISBN 9781512457032.

––––. Super Soaker Inventor Lonnie Johnson. ISBN 9781512434477.

ea vol: 32p. (STEM Trailblazer Bios). further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Lerner. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 3-6–A celebration of innovators and the various STEM fields they pioneered and loved. Throughout the series, the authors routinely but gently emphasize how interconnected the acts of studying, inventing, and playing are (especially in Lonnie Johnson)—a quality that makes these titles natural companion texts for maker spaces. Also, the initial focus on the childhood of each subject allows students to draw their own personal connections (a young Nikola Tesla unsuccessfully tried to fly, Ellen Ochoa’s parents divorced when she was a teen). Bright, well-designed layouts make for an effortless reading experience, though the text can be vague at points; for instance, in Katherine Johnson, students may wonder why her town “did not have a high school she could attend.” Upbeat profiles of admirable STEM figures and fine additions to biography collections.

hinman, Bonnie. Donald Trump: 45th President of the United States. ISBN 9781532111853.

––––. Ivanka Trump: Businesswoman and Political Activist. ISBN 9781532111860.

Kramer, Barbara. Lin-Manuel Miranda: Award-Winning Musical Writer. ISBN 9781532111839.

moritz, Rachel. Julian Assange: Founder of WikiLeaks. ISBN 9781532111792.

ventura, Marne. Elon Musk: Entrepreneur and Innovator. ISBN 9781532111846.

––––. Hillary Clinton: Historic Politician. ISBN 9781532111815.

wheeler, Jill C. Ellen DeGeneres: Groundbreaking Entertainer. ISBN 9781532111822.

––––. Fidel Castro: Cuban Revolutionary Leader. ISBN 9781532111808.

ea vol: 48p. (Newsmakers Set 2). chron. glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $32.79.

Gr 4-6 –Generally sunny profiles of popular figures. The books progress chronologically through their subject’s life, leading up to the present day. Critical thinking questions are peppered throughout the volumes and in concluding “Stop and Think” sections. The clean layouts, lively photos, and accessible texts makes the series an overall winsome addition; however, it is not without its faults. Julian Assange refers to Chelsea Manning as Bradley for most of her section. Donald Trump mentions his “crude” remarks about women during the campaign trail but not his incendiary comments about Mexican, Mexican American, and Muslim people. Finally, the content in Ivanka Trump is on the slight side (“On summer breaks, Ivanka and her brothers had jobs.”). Librarians can select titles as needed.

Kurtz, Kevin. Living Things and Nonliving Things. 32p. (Compare and Contrast). glossary. photos. Arbordale. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781628559859; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781628559866.

K-Gr 3–This compare and contrast book tackles both the obvious and subtle differences and similarities between what is animate and inanimate. Kurta starts off simply, directing readers to just look at the photos of various animals, objects, etc., before segueing into more complex territory (“Are living things the only things that move?”). The text acknowledges the challenge of the exercise, and the many variations or exceptions that can arise (e.g., fire needs oxygen and something to consume). The photos are all stock images but they are bright, clear, and kid-friendly. An ending “For Creative Minds” section was developed for classroom use. Consider for early STEM collections, to be used in a guided setting.

Larson, Kirsten. International Space Station. ISBN 9781683423898; ISBN 9781683424598.

Maurer, Tracy. Elevators. ISBN 9781683423928; ISBN 9781683424628.

Mooney, Carla. Telescopes. ISBN 9781683423904; ISBN 9781683424604.

ea vol: 48p. (Engineering Wonders). chron. diag. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rourke. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $35.64. pap. $10.95.

Gr 4-6 –Light, almost bouncy texts guide readers through the origins, development, and current use of elevators, telescopes, and the International Space Station. In all of the titles, uncluttered layouts allow for the images to take center stage, while the text runs along either the top or to the side of the pages. Students will learn why elevators first played music (to soothe riders still suspicious of the contraption) and how astronaut training includes lessons on going to the bathroom in space. In each volume, before and after reading activities for teachers or caregivers to engage their audiences with accompany the table of contents. A mix of history and science, these series titles will especially resonate with machine-loving kids.

Middle to High School

Abramovitz, Melissa. Animal Rights. ISBN 9781682822630.

Nakaya, Andrea. Obesity. ISBN 9781682822678.

––––. Police Powers. ISBN 9781682822692.

Watson, Stephanie. The Death Penalty. ISBN 9781682822654.

Wilcox, Christine. Abortion. ISBN 9781682822616.

ea vol: 80p. (Thinking Critically). further reading. index. notes. photos. websites. ReferencePoint. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $39.96.

Gr 9 Up–Formatted like a debate, each volume alternates between pro and con chapters that highlight a number of pertinent talking points. The authors routinely prompt students to reflect on and challenge their own ideas and opinions. In general, the tone throughout is not sensationalized, but it is a little dry; the content resembles an overview much more than a true interrogation of the conflict. Notably, in Abortion, the inclusion of the argument that abortion is “racial genocide” because it “weakens diversity by decimating the population of America’s minority groups” as a viable position is deeply problematic, and the decision to quote Breitbart to support this viewpoint undermines confidence in the overall work. A supplemental choice for large debate collections.

Orr, Tamra. I Have Been Shamed on the Internet. Now What? ISBN 9781508172024.

Staley, Erin. I’m an Undocumented Immigrant. Now What? ISBN 9781508171935.

ea vol: 112p. (Teen Life 411). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen YA. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $37.10.

Gr 7 Up–This series tackles complex issues in a calm, approachable manner. Orr begins the discussion on shaming by examining how quickly people, with the assistance of recent technology, can distribute and in turn believe information without verifying it first—and the unprecedented danger to all this introduces. The importance of empathy and awareness emerge as themes, while information on how to support those affected, included dealing with parents, is valuable. However, the title centered on the challenges undocumented teens face is a bit behind the times. Some discussions aren’t specific to the audience (for instance, bringing personalized business cards to networking events) or lack nuance (in-school discrimination related to immigration status is “not allowed”—true, but that’s not exactly an in-depth assessment of the issue). Furthermore the assertion that “It’s unlikely [ICE] will come to your home if you haven’t been convicted of a crime” is suspect. Adequate additions to YA self-help, the title on shaming being the stronger of the two.

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

Della Farrell About Della Farrell

Della Farrell is an Assistant Editor at School Library Journal and Editor of Series Made Simple

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