February 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A Different Perspective: U.S. History | Series Nonfiction

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SMS1511USHistIn To Kill a Mockingbird, there is a memorable exchange between Scout and her father, Atticus, about perspective. After Scout endures a particularly trying day at school. Atticus advises, “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” In our increasingly diverse, global society, perspective is a must. Drawing on primary resources, vivid writing, and thoughtful analysis, most of these new series reflect publishers’ ongoing efforts to publish materials that represent different viewpoints.


Behnke, Alison. A Timeline History of the Mexican-American War. ISBN 9781467785839.

––––. A Timeline History of the Trail of Tears. ISBN 9781467785822.

––––. A Timeline History of the Transcontinental Railroad. ISBN 9781467785815.

Watson, Stephanie. A Timeline History of the California Gold Rush. ISBN 9781467785808.

ea vol: 48p. (Timeline Trackers: Westward Expansion). chron. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. Lerner. Nov. 2015. lib. ed. $30.65.

Gr 4-6 –This series pairs dramatic narrative with visually arresting time lines, resulting in a well-thought-out foray into the years of America’s westward expansion. Chapters are six to 10 pages in length, and each begins with a chronology that takes up the top half of the spread. The books then go on to explain the events in more detail. The clear writing effectively demonstrates cause and effect. For instance, in Mexican-American War, the Battle of the Alamo is presented clearly as an outcome of long-simmering tensions between U.S. settlers in Mexican-controlled Texas. Throughout the series, red, white, and blue motif is used for time line demarcations and paragraph headings, giving the content a crisp, clean look and serving as a visual alert. Illustrations are serviceable, and all are captioned. Sources are not cited. VERDICT A good option for collections where supplementary material on the American West is needed.

Kenney, Karen Latchana. James Meredith and the University of Mississippi. ISBN 9781624038792; ISBN 9781629697451. LC 2015931192.

––––. Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. ISBN 9781624038846; ISBN 9781629697505. LC 2015931183.

Mooney, Carla. Freedom Summer, 1964. ISBN 9781624038785; ISBN 9781629697444. LC 2015931579.

––––. The Little Rock Nine. ISBN 9781 624038808; ISBN 9781629697468. LC 2015931186.

Terp, Gail. Nonviolent Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement. ISBN 9781624038822; ISBN 9781629697482. LC 2015931580.

Uhl, Xina M. The Passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ISBN 9781624038839; ISBN 9781629697499. LC 2015931188.

Watson, Stephanie. Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington. ISBN 9781624038815; ISBN 9781629697475. LC 2015931189.

Wilson, Sharon J. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. ISBN 9781624038778; ISBN 9781629697437. LC 2015931187.

ea vol: 48p. (Stories of the Civil Rights Movement). chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. reprods. websites. ABDO. 2015. Tr. $32.79. ebk. $32.79.

Gr 3-6 –For such slim volumes, the content of this set on the civil rights movement is remarkably thorough. Each title begins with the basics of the event or case in question, drawing readers in with details that give the history immediacy, such as the Southern drawl of the bigoted driver who told Rosa Parks to go to the back of the bus and Elizabeth Eckford’s careful grooming for the first day of school. Each book goes on to describe issues that led up to the event in question, as well as its impact. A “Stop and Think” feature sums up each volume with questions designed to foster critical thinking skills and empathy. The illustrations consist of 19th-century paintings of plantation life and 20th-century photographs. Many of the images, such as one portraying a snarling German shepherd police dog attacking a young black man, depict the intensity of the events. VERDICT Succinct and often powerful, this set is a solid purchase.

Kovacs, Vic. A Cowboy’s Life. ISBN 9781499411904.

––––. Native Americans in the West. ISBN 9781499411959.

––––. Outlaws and Sheriffs. ISBN 9781499411973.

Stuckey, Rachel. African Americans in the West. ISBN 9781499411935.

––––. Wagon Trains Heading West. ISBN 9781499412000.

––––. Women in the West. ISBN 9781 499412048.

ea vol: 32p. (The True History of the Wild West). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. 2015. lib. ed. $26.25.

Gr 3-5 –Complex topics related to the Wild West are handled nimbly here, making these volumes manageable for elementary school students. Kudos to the authors for smooth and pithy writing. Terms such as stragglers, all-terrain vehicle, and barbed wire appear in bold to point readers to the glossary if needed. Other terms do not appear in bold but are defined adequately in the text. An Old West motif decorates the backgrounds: pages resemble parchment, and there are silhouettes of cowboys. Most of the illustrations are serviceable paintings. Though the illustrations have captions, often there isn’t enough information provided. One illustration has the caption “Colonel Custer stands at center in this famous painting of the Battle of the Little Bighorn,” but the painting isn’t cited, and it is impossible to spot Custer. Sources for text and illustrations are not cited. VERDICT Not without its hiccups, this series makes history lively and accessible.

Middle TO High School

Arora, Sabina. The Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance. ISBN 9781680480450.

Baptiste, Tracey. The Civil War and Reconstruction Eras. ISBN 9781680480399.

Campbell, Ciara. Slavery in America. ISBN 9781680480368.

Hussey, Maria. The Rise of the Jim Crow Era. ISBN 9781680480429.

Killcoyne, Hope. The Civil Rights Era. ISBN 9781680480481.

Lowery, Zoe. Barack Obama and the Idea of a Postracial Society. ISBN 9781680480511.

ea vol: 80p. (The African American Experience: From Slavery to the Presidency). bibliog. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. Britannica. 2015. lib. ed. $32.90.

Gr 9 Up –Concise and direct, this series explores the cause-and-effect relationship between slavery and other issues, such as the abolition of slavery and the enacting of segregation. The books also examine political and economic injustices faced by African Americans, past and present, and relevant court cases. The writing is straightforward, and the authors lay out step by step how an event happened or how a law came to be. The main narrative is bolstered by sidebars featuring key players, including well-known figures such as Booker T. Washington and less familiar but still pivotal figures such as Robert Smalls. In Barack Obama, the author tries to do too much: discuss major achievements by African American celebrities, describe the highs and lows of President Obama’s time in office, and examine injustices faced by African Americans. As a result, the coverage of each is cursory. Sans serif fonts, subtle backgrounds, and a few archival photos and maps enhance the visual appeal. VERDICT The thorough content and compact format make this series a worthwhile purchase.

Best, B.J. Abraham Lincoln, The Emancipation Proclamation, and the 13th Amendment. ISBN 9781502605306.

Gold, Susan Dudley. Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. ISBN 9781502605283.

––––. Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. ISBN 9781502605221.

Morretta, Alison. Frederick Douglass and William Garrison. ISBN 9781502605320.

––––. Legal Debates of the Antislavery Movement. ISBN 9781502605269.

Paley, Caitlyn. Slave Narratives and the Writings of Freedmen. ISBN 9781502605245.

Stefoff, Rebecca. John Brown and Armed Resistance to Slavery. ISBN 9781502605344.

ea vol: 64p. (Primary Sources of the Abolitionist Movement). bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. 2015. lib. ed. $34.21.

Gr 4-8 –Taken as a whole, this series demonstrates the diversity within the abolition movement, despite the single cause uniting its followers. On its own, each title examines a key aspect of abolitionism while situating the movement within the larger social context. Excerpts from diaries, letters, newspapers, and photographs invigorate the straightforward text with vivid, sometimes shocking details that humanize the topic. One photograph from the 19th century shows a close-up of a slave’s back, grotesquely scarred by whipping. A public notice for a slave auction lists the slaves’ names, ages, and physical characteristics. A few of the photographs have been fully or partially colorized, which strikes a discordant note, considering the series’ mostly faithful and earnest duplication of primary sources, but these are minor objections. VERDICT This well-designed resource featuring primary sources should be considered, especially in school libraries.

Bodden, Valerie. Apache. ISBN 9781 608185504.

––––. Cherokee. ISBN 9781608185511.

––––. Navajo. ISBN 9781608185535.

––––. Nez Perce. ISBN 9781608185542.

––––. Sioux. ISBN 9781608185559.

Potts, Steve. Iroquois. ISBN 9781608185528.

ea vol: 48p. (Peoples of North America). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. reprods. websites. Creative Education. 2015. lib. ed. $38.50.

Gr 5-8 –Elegant in design and sumptuously illustrated, this set is one of the strongest series about Native Americans to come out in a long time. Each title opens with the earliest known history of the tribes. The descriptions of the tribes cover many aspects of life, including gender roles, wartime, peacetime, and religion and spirituality. Also featured are accounts of interactions with other tribes and with white people, as well as the effects of those relationships. Many words unique to the specific tribes are used and are defined in the text. The illustrations are excellent. Present-day and archival photos, which depict people as well as scenery and animals, are stunning, regardless of whether they are black-and-white or color. Some images take up a full page, while smaller photos appear in elegantly lined sidebars. In addition to the photos of people, there are many photos of related scenery and animals. VERDICT Informative and beautiful, this series is a wonderful addition to any library.

Bowman, Donna Janell. The Navajo: The Past and Present of the Diné. ISBN 9781491449929.

––––. The Sioux: The Past and Present of the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota. ISBN 9781491449905.

Smith-Llera, Danielle. The Cherokee: The Past and Present of a Proud Nation. ISBN 9781491449912.

––––. The Iroquois: The Past and Present of the Haudenosaunee. ISBN 9781491449936.

ea vol: 32p. (Fact Finders: American Indian Life). chron. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. reprods. websites. Capstone. 2015. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 3-6 –These concise titles provide ideal introductions to a handful of Native American tribes. The bulk of the content in each title is divided into four sections: the formation of the tribe and its social structure, first encounters with white people, tribal life in the modern era, and efforts to maintain tribal identity throughout generations. This series provides vivid examples of how customs evolved, demonstrating clearly that Native American tribes are active today. Illustrations include paintings and photographs. Presenting in vibrant color the fine details of tribal art and regalia, the photographs are particularly well-done. Sources, however, are not cited. VERDICT Good introductions.

Corrigan, Jim. World War II. ISBN 9781422233634; ISBN 9781422286036.

Crompton, Samuel W. The Civil War. ISBN 9781422233542; ISBN 9781422285947.

Gallagher, Jim. US-Led Wars in Iraq, 1991–Present. ISBN 9781422233580; ISBN 9781422285985.

Galliker, Leslie. Native American Wars on the Western Frontier (1866–1890). ISBN 9781422233573; ISBN 9781422285978.

Kavanaugh, Dorothy. War in Afghanistan: Overthrow of the Taliban and Aftermath. ISBN 9781422233603; ISBN 9781422286005.

Rice, Earle, Jr. The Vietnam War. ISBN 9781422233597; ISBN 9781422285992.

Toler, Pamela. The War of 1812. ISBN 9781422233610; ISBN 9781422286012.

Ziff, John. The American Revolution. ISBN 9781422233535; ISBN 9781422285930.

––––. The Cold War. ISBN 9781422233559; ISBN 9781422285954.

––––. The Korean War. ISBN 9781422233566; ISBN 9781422285961.

––––. World War I. ISBN 9781422233627; ISBN 9781422286029.

ea vol: 64p. (Major U.S. Historical Wars). chron. further reading. glossary. illus. index. notes. photos. websites. Mason Crest. 2015. lib. ed. $23.95. ebk. $29.95.

Gr 8 Up –There are no splashy covers or sparkly literary lures here, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of this set, which presents straightforward history systematically and plainly. Each title opens with a dramatized account of a relevant battle. Subsequent chapters trace the origins of the war in question from its roots in politics and social injustice. Each chapter begins with “Words to Understand in This Chapter,” which highlights and defines terms of thematic relevance. The layout is simple and features pale yellow backgrounds, text in a small black font, headings in red, and illustrations boxed and outlined in plain black. Illustrations were chosen with great care and demonstrate the profound effects of war on human life; for instance, one photo depicts a sobbing baby sitting amid the rubble in the aftermath of a bombing of a Shanghai train station. This series strikes the ideal balance between a thorough and well-researched presentation of history and one that is exciting and engaging. VERDICT An excellent resource.

Goodman, Michael E. Civil War Spies. ISBN 9781608185986.

––––. Cold War Spies. ISBN 9781608185993.

––––. Modern Spies. ISBN 9781608186006.

––––. Revolutionary War Spies. ISBN 9781608186013.

––––. World War I Spies. ISBN 9781 608186020.

––––. World War II Spies. ISBN 9781 608186037.

ea vol: 48p. (Wartime Spies). bibliog. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Creative Education. 2015. lib. ed. $38.50.

Gr 4-8 –These accounts of duplicity, intrigue, and derring-do are the more exciting because they are true. The layout is tidy and streamlined. The main text appears on a white background. Sidebars featuring particularly notable spies or incidents appear in red. Potentially new words appear in bold and are defined in the glossary. Readers will be captivated by descriptions and images of tools of the trade, such as an 1880s pocket watch that masked a tiny camera. Each title successfully explains the historical framework in which the spies operated as well as the motivation behind their career choice. The illustrations are an attractive mix of period drawings and photos, paintings, and modern-day photos, all of which are reproduced in impressive clarity. Exciting and educational. VERDICT This set provides excellent supplementary material to history units. A sound purchase.

Howell, Sara. American Revolution: Frontline Soldiers and Their Families. ISBN 9781482430547.

––––. Civil War: Frontline Soldiers and Their Families. ISBN 9781482430585.

Hunter, Nick. World War I: Frontline Soldiers and Their Families. ISBN 9781482430660.

––––. World War II: Frontline Soldiers and Their Families. ISBN 9781482430707.

Levete, Sarah. Afghanistan War: Frontline Soldiers and Their Families. ISBN 9781482430509.

––––. Vietnam War: Frontline Soldiers and Their Families. ISBN 9781482430622.

ea vol: 48p. (Frontline Families). further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. 2015. lib. ed. $31.95.

Gr 4-8 –These titles make excellent reading for readers with little historical background who are seeking a succinct explanation of the politics and polarities behind different wars. The authors build a solid narrative, one layer at a time. “Primary Sources: What Do They Tell Us?” sidebars offer a photograph or drawing along with questions designed to foster critical thinking. For instance, a sidebar about Thomas Paine’s Common Sense encourages readers to consider why the support of ordinary colonists was so pivotal. While the bulk of the material deals with the background of the war, each volume also addresses the effects of war on women and children. There is information on damaged or obliterated town and familial infrastructures, civilian casualties, child soldiers, and wartime privations. Boldly colored backgrounds and plain bold fonts are just modern enough to form an attractive contrast to old images. Photographs, drawings, and maps work effectively with the text. VERDICT An excellent option for exploring the topic.

Lanser, Amanda. The American Revolution by the Numbers. ISBN 9781491442944.

––––. The Civil War by the Numbers. ISBN 9781491442951.

––––. World War I by the Numbers. ISBN 9781491442968.

––––. World War II by the Numbers. ISBN 9781491442975.

ea vol: 32p. (America at War by the Numbers). charts. further reading. glossary. illus. index. reprods. websites. Capstone. 2015. lib. ed. $27.32.

Gr 4-8 –Building a series of books primarily around numbers is a bold move, but it pays off in spades here. A brief paragraph at the beginning of each chapter establishes context. Subsequent content is presented via statistics, some of which are simply written out and others of which appear in pie charts, bar graphs, or timetables. Several stats appear on each page and include information on casualties, weapons, women, supplies, and more. Hi-res images are featured prominently, sometimes as an eye-catching background, such as the sepia-toned battle drawing that serves as a backdrop for a spread describing the jobs of Confederate soldiers. With other spreads, the images take center stage, such as one depicting a World War I soldier with his equipment. Many visuals are rendered with a shadow effect, making them appear to pop off the page. Unfortunately, sources are not cited. VERDICT The dynamic use of statistics makes for irresistible reading. This ideal supplement for history classes will appeal to reluctant readers. Consider for hi-lo collections, too.

Libraries that can consider only a few series for purchase should start with Creative Education’s “Peoples of North America,” ABDO’s “Stories of the Civil Rights Movement” and Capstone’s “American Indian Life.” The beautifully designed and effective “Peoples” is an excellent addition to any collection. “Stories,” with its powerful accounts of injustice and the fight to remedy it, is nonfiction at its best. “American Indian Life,” though it lacks sources, provides engaging classroom support concerning how the past meets the present for Native American tribes. Gareth Stevens’ “Frontline Families” and Cavendish Square’s “Primary Sources of the Abolitionist Movement” engage readers, stirring not only their intellect but their sense of compassion as well. For the most part, these sets accomplish what they set out to do.

Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Libraries, NC

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.