November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Reference Titles on Sharks, Medical Marvels, & More

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50 States: Our America. 80p. illus. maps. photos. Time. May 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781683300069.

Gr 2-5 –This slim volume is a handy little guidebook for elementary students looking to learn a bit more about the United States. Time’s tried-and-true method of delivery works well here: brightly colored pages, an engaging layout, and age-appropriate text. Each state is given one short page, which includes a basic map spotlighting main cities and a pullout box with information such as the admission date to the Union, postal abbreviation, capital, nickname, population, and land area. State birds and trees are listed as well. This offering covers the basics and will appeal to state trivia enthusiasts. U.S. regions and territories also receive their due, with brief descriptions of what makes an area unique, what it’s known for, and what states it encompasses. VERDICT A ­concise title that would best accompany longer, more detailed accounts.–Sharon ­Verbeten, Brown County Library, Green Bay, WI

Jackson, Tom. The Elements Book: A Visual Encyclopedia of the Periodic Table. 208p. diag. illus. index. photos. DK. Apr. 2017. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781465456601.

Gr 5-7 –An array of glittering crystals, lambent chunks of ore, and artistically posed lab samples that were all definitely ready for their close-ups are paired with equally vivid photos of manufactured products, scientific instruments, works of art, prominent scientists, and large-scale natural features to give this tour of the periodic table a strongly visual character. Arranged not by atomic number but (more logically) in groups, the 118 entries each contain examples of an element’s various forms and common uses, diagrams of atomic structures, and, occasionally, a side profile of the element’s discoverer or namesake. The narrative text is often rather squeezed into a ribbon along the lower margins, offering pithy explanatory comments on the pictures, which are accompanied by clearly visible labels and captions. Jackson occasionally makes simplistic claims, such as assertions that there are only three states of matter (more than a dozen have been demonstrated or theorized) and that Robert Boyle was the first to conduct chemistry experiments. Still, his information is precise, concise, and current enough to include the recently assigned permanent names for elements 113, 115, 117, and 118. VERDICT Not an essential replacement for older surveys such as Dan Green’s The Elements or Albert Stwertka’s Guide to the Elements, but for upper elementary and middle school students, this is a dazzling and up-to-date alternative.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, New York

National Geographic Kids Beginner’s United States Atlas. 128p. illus. index. glossary. maps. photos. National Geographic. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781426324345; pap. $13.99. ISBN 9781426326479.

Gr 2-5 –Some may say that atlases are passé, given most students’ heavy reliance on the Internet, and others may point out that materials on geography are plentiful. Nevertheless, kids will pore over this full-color book. National Geographic’s bold, graphic approach ratchets up the cool factor. A detailed legend makes interpreting the maps clear. Divided by region (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and West), the volume displays two-page spreads on each state—including a large, intricate, almost-full-page map of the state and notable cities and waterways. Pullouts indicate year of statehood, population, capital, flag, state bird and flower, and an additional fun fact (for instance, Pennsylvania’s Hershey is the chocolate capital of the world). U.S. territories (including Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgan Islands) are identified on a map that shows their geographic relationship to the mainland. A final glossary and page of U.S. facts wrap up the work, which is illustrated with mainly stock but appropriate photography. VERDICT An additional purchase where more geography resources are needed; bound to entice browsers.–Sharon Verbeten, Brown County Library, Green Bay, WI

Sharkpedia. 2nd ed. 128p. further reading. chart. index. maps. photos. DK. Jun. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781465463128.

Gr 2-6 –This engaging, enlightening scrapbook-style reference work covers anatomy, specific species, the myths and folklore surrounding sharks, and their depiction in the media. Though most of the content remains the same, the volume has been updated somewhat since the first iteration. A new section on conservation and taking action to help protect these vulnerable creatures lets readers consider how they can make a difference. A further reading section called “Read” has been relabeled “Media,” and the films Finding Nemo and Sharknado have been added. Among the many visuals are charts that track the development of prehistoric creatures (both “landlubbers” and “seafarers”), ocean habitat maps, and excerpts from the Chondrichthyes Chronicles (a fictional newspaper that offers stories on topics such as the introduction of whale sharks to the Atlanta Aquarium). VERDICT Chances are that after multiple circulations, the 2008 edition may be looking a bit like a victim of the shark in Jaws. Libraries seeking to replace the earlier version should consider this selection, which provides readers a chance to learn more about these creatures and their impact on the world.–Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District, Greensburg, PA

The Vietnam War: The Definitive Illustrated History. 360p. chron. illus. index. photos. DK. Apr. 2017. Tr $40. ISBN 9781465457691.

Gr 8 Up –DK, in consultation with the Smithsonian Institution, delivers a hefty tome that provides a sweeping overview of the Vietnam War. Informational spreads containing color photographs take readers more or less chronologically through the saga of the war, from Indochina’s precolonial history to the region’s current situation. Most of the spreads focus on specific events or aspects of the war, such as “The Tonkin Gulf Incident” and “The African American Experience,” while some feature biographies, eyewitness accounts, time lines, selections of artifacts and weaponry, and full-bleed images. The presentation of content, in particular, the clear and consistent subject headings and iconography, aids reader comprehension. Especially useful are the “before” and “after” panels accompanying each topic, which assist readers in connecting the topic at hand to previous and upcoming sections. The material is broad and inclusive and takes a critical approach to all parties involved, despite the book’s self-proclaimed American lens. The layout, table of contents, index, and acknowledgements section citing sources for the hundreds of photographs make the volume easily navigable. There are a few factual errors, such as an incorrect statement of the scope of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. However, this is overall a solid resource. VERDICT Strongly recommended for young military enthusiasts, readers seeking to gain a broad understanding of the war, and those conducting research.–Darla Salva Cruz, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

Vigliani, Marguerite & Gale Eaton. A History of Medicine in 50 Discoveries. 288p. bibliog. illus. index. notes. Tilbury House. Jun. 2017. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9780884484004.

Gr 7 Up –Tackling everything from Ötzi, the Neolithic man who treated his tapeworm with a fungus, to the more recent (late 20th-century) realization that an extract from the artemisia plant can combat malaria, Vigliani and Eaton examine the history of medicine. The topics are arranged chronologically, and the narrative thoughtfully weaves together the seemingly disparate worlds of ancient and modern medicine, reminding readers that current lifesaving advances are often based on the work of ancient medical practitioners, folk medicine traditions, and plant knowledge. Chapters are comprehensible and short (approximately five pages in length) and contain colorful illustrations as well as boxes highlighting related subjects of interest. Chapter endnotes and bibliographical sources are extensive. VERDICT Bloodletting, organ transplants, the discovery of DNA—it’s all here. Those who tackle this book from cover to cover will be rewarded with an understanding of medical progress throughout history, while browsers are sure to return for more. Teachers will find a rich resource ­likely to spark further student research.–Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn

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

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