March 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Drop-in Visits: Geography | Series Nonfiction

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1604SMS-GeographyMany of us cringe at the thought of “drop-in” company, when visitors might not see us at our best. One of the sets in this section “drops in on” American cities, and in a sense, geography is a subject that does just that, visiting all parts of the world and its peoples and cultures. In those visits, we sometimes see the best of unique cultures and heritages or magnificent natural and human-made wonders. We can also see the devastating effects of natural disasters or economic, social, and environmental problems. In age-appropriate ways, the best geography books allow students to see and understand the good and bad of the world they live in, just as “drop-in” visitors to our homes might find us in our best or less-than-ideal situations.


Adamson, Heather. Bangladesh. ISBN 9781626173439; ISBN 9781681031682.

––––. Mongolia. ISBN 9781626173446; ISBN 9781681031699.

––––. Panama. ISBN 9781626173453; ISBN 9781681031705.

––––. United Arab Emirates. ISBN 9781626173460; ISBN 9781681031712.

ea vol: 32p. (Exploring Countries). chart. diag. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Bellwether. 2016. lib. ed. $24.95. ebk. $24.95.

Gr 3-6 –This upbeat, easy-to-read set introduces each country with richly photographed spreads about standard geographical topics such as land, unique and exotic wildlife, populations, daily life in urban and rural areas, education, work, entertainment, food, and holidays. Closing spreads highlight something that is distinctive to the titular nation, such as the Panama Canal or eagle hunters in Mongolia. “Fast Fact” and “Did You Know?” boxes add interesting trivia. Text averages one to two paragraphs per spread, making the large photos of interesting places, human activities, and plants and animals the set’s strongest element. The few maps are almost featureless, a significant weakness. VERDICT Supplemental choices for reports or nonfiction reading.

Bankoff, Samuel. Famous Coloradans. ISBN 9781499415339; ISBN 9781499415308; ISBN 9781499415353.

Bitsis, Angelo. Colorado Today: Influences from Many Cultures. ISBN 9781499415223; ISBN 9781499415193; ISBN 9781499415230.

Cado, Herman. Early Explorers and Fur Traders in Colorado. ISBN 9781499414547; ISBN 9781499414509; ISBN 9781499414554.

Feinstein, Stephen. Governing the Centennial State. ISBN 9781499415162; ISBN 9781499415131; ISBN 9781499415179.

Laney, Mark. The Land and Resources of Colorado. ISBN 9781499414417; ISBN 9781499414387; ISBN 9781499414424.

Lohr, Ruth. The First Coloradans: Native Americans in Colorado. ISBN 9781499414486; ISBN 9781499414448; ISBN 9781499414493.

Machajewski, Sarah. Colorado’s Changing Cities: Then and Now. ISBN 9781499415025; ISBN 9781499414974; ISBN 9781499415049.

Meyer, Susan. Mining and Ranching in Early Colorado: Boom and Bust, and Back Again. ISBN 9781499414943; ISBN 9781499414899; ISBN 9781499414950.

––––. Pathway to Statehood: The Territory of Colorado Joins the Union. ISBN 9781499414714; ISBN 9781499414677; ISBN 9781499414721.

Nevins, Debbie. The Natural History of Colorado. ISBN 9781499415414; ISBN 9781499415360; ISBN 9781499415438.

––––. The Privilege of Colorado Citizenship: Rights and Responsibilities. ISBN 9781499415285; ISBN 9781499415254; ISBN 9781499415292.

Niver, Heather Moore. The Economy of Colorado. ISBN 9781499415117; ISBN 9781499415063; ISBN 9781499415124.

Susienka, Kristen. Colorado Settlers and Native Americans. ISBN 9781499414653; ISBN 9781499414622; ISBN 9781499414660.

Vescia, Peter. The Pikes Peak Gold Rush. ISBN 9781499414608; ISBN 9781499414561; ISBN 9781499414615.

ea vol: 48p. (Spotlight on Colorado). chart. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. PowerKids. 2016. lib. ed. $30.25. pap. $11.75. ebk. $30.25.

Gr 4-6 –Breathtaking photos of Colorado’s scenery and animal inhabitants are the strongest parts of this comprehensive set about the state’s past and present. The three to four paragraphs of text per page include adequate background and detail, and authors highlight the contributions of diverse populations that have made the state their home. Coverage is generally positive, but mentions past mistreatment of and discrimination against Native Americans and minority groups, as well as incidents such as the Sand Creek Massacre. The contemporary photos are supplemented by high-quality reproductions of period photos and illustrations as well as maps (however few). Pikes Peak, Early Explorers, and Mining and Ranching are general introductions to the region’s early history and could have report value to a broader audience. VERDICT The entire set is report fodder for Colorado schools, and the three titles on the state’s early history may be useful for libraries in other locales.

Barger, Jeff. Atlanta. ISBN 9781681914046; ISBN 9781681914466; ISBN 9781681914848.

––––. Washington D.C. ISBN 9781681914053; ISBN 9781681914473; ISBN 9781681914855.

Canasi, Brittany. Boston. ISBN 9781681914084; ISBN 9781681914503; ISBN 9781681914886.

Greenspan, Judy. Dallas. ISBN 9781681914077; ISBN 9781681914497; ISBN 9781681914879.

Nelson, Deb. Philadelphia. ISBN 9781681914091; ISBN 9781681914510; ISBN 9781681914893.

Staton, Hilarie. Chicago. ISBN 9781681914060; ISBN 9781681914480; ISBN 9781681914862.

––––. New York City. ISBN 9781681914039; ISBN 9781681914459; ISBN 9781681914831.

Waxler, Melanie. Orlando. ISBN 9781681914022; ISBN 9781681914442; ISBN 9781681914824.

ea vol: 32p. (Dropping In On). chron. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rourke. 2016. lib. ed. $22.95. pap. $9.95. ebk. $22.95.

Gr 3-5 –A diverse group of cartoon children riding in a hot-air balloon drop in on American cities to see the sights and sample local culture and cuisine. All of the books touch on the title city’s history, culture, sports, populations, food, and entertainment but in varying amounts, allowing individual books to focus on what makes each city unique. For instance, Washington D.C. explores many monuments and museums, Orlando theme parks, and Philadelphia early-American heritage. Large, well-captioned contemporary and historical photos illustrate the breezy and fast-paced texts, which average about a paragraph per page. Superimposed cartoon figures of the children tell readers asides such as the correct way to order a Philly cheesesteak or bits of trivia about people and places. VERDICT Entertaining titles to introduce emerging readers to some of America’s most visited cities.

Bjorklund, Ruth & William McGeveran . Alaska. ISBN 9781627131544; ISBN 9781627131568.

Bjorklund, Ruth & Ellen Todras. Montana. ISBN 9781627132046; ISBN 9781627132060.

Gaines, Ann & Kerry Waring. Mississippi. ISBN 9781627132411; ISBN 9781627132435.

Hart, Joyce & Elissa Bass. Alabama. ISBN 9781627132350; ISBN 9781627132374.

Hess, Debra & William McGeveran. South Carolina. ISBN 9781627131759; ISBN 9781627131773.

Hicks, Terry & Ellen Todras. Nevada. ISBN 9781627132077; ISBN 9781627132091.

King, David & Elissa Bass. Arkansas. ISBN 9781627132329; ISBN 9781627132343.

Petreycik, Rick & Alicia Klepeis. Wyoming. ISBN 9781627132596; ISBN 9781627132619.

Sanders, Doug & Jacqueline Laks Gorman. Idaho. ISBN 9781627131957; ISBN 9781627131971.

Sanders, Doug & Gerry Boehme. Missouri. ISBN 9781627132442; ISBN 9781627132466.

Sanders, Doug & Lisa Herrington. Utah. ISBN 9781627131780; ISBN 9781627131803.

ea vol: 40p. (It’s My State!). chart. chron. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. 2016. lib. ed. $34.21. ebk. $34.21.

Gr 4-6 –These third editions contain little change from the recently published second editions, with some sections having almost identical texts. Changes include some new information about early Native American populations, energy production and the environment, and seven “Ten Key” facts lists throughout the text about topics such as people, events, cities, animals, and plants. The format is largely unchanged from previous editions, opening with a “Quick Look” at state symbols, followed by an introductory overview and four chapters about the state’s history, people, government, and economy. Many of the photos and illustrations have also been retained. This set provides more information than many states series, but some sections haven’t undergone significant revision since the first editions, specifically Missouri and Montana. However, Nevada does contain a fair amount of revision. VERDICT Supplemental new report purchases, but revisions are too limited to justify replacement of earlier editions.

Butterfield, Moira. Clothes Around the World. ISBN 9781502608369; ISBN 9781502608345; ISBN 9781502608376.

––––. Food Around the World. ISBN 9781502608406; ISBN 9781502608383; ISBN 9781502608413.

––––. Homes Around the World. ISBN 9781502608444; ISBN 9781502608420; ISBN 9781502608451.

––––. Schools Around the World. ISBN 9781502608482; ISBN 9781502608468; ISBN 9781502608499.

––––. Toys and Games Around the World. ISBN 9781502608529; ISBN 9781502608505; ISBN 9781502608536.

––––. Transportation Around the World. ISBN 9781502608567; ISBN 9781502608543; ISBN 9781502608574.

ea vol: 32p. (Children Like Us). further reading. glossary. index. photos. Cavendish Square. 2016. lib. ed. $28.50. pap. $10.58. ebk. $28.50.

K-Gr 3 –These beautifully illustrated books take primary students on a visual journey into the meals, schools, home lives, transportation, and cultural entertainment of their peers in all corners of the world. Each book opens with boxed photos superimposed on a world map that show readers where they will be going, followed by 12 spreads that offer several examples within each category, such as unique housing, clothing worn for everyday and special occasions, traditional and makeshift schools, and innovative pastimes and games. The three to four paragraphs of text in each spread are enough to provide basic information while leaving room for the captioned full-page photo on one side and several smaller photos on the other. The mixture of the familiar and exotic and the inclusion of disabled children in Schools Around the World strengthens this series. VERDICT Interesting text and visual appeal make this set an attractive addition for beginning readers and to read aloud.

Cantor, Rachel Anne. Cuba. ISBN 9781943553358; ISBN 9781943553693.

––––. Dominican Republic. ISBN 9781 943553334; ISBN 9781943553679.

Markovics, Joyce. Colombia. ISBN 9781 943553341; ISBN 9781943553686.

––––. Haiti. ISBN 9781943553365; ISBN 9781943553709.

ea vol: 32p. (Countries We Come From). further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. Bearport. 2016. lib. ed. $19.95. ebk. $29.95.

Gr 1-3 –The latest titles in this continuing series visit countries of the Caribbean Basin. The strongest element of the set is the appealing format; large, colorful captioned photos arranged in clean layouts with two to three sentences of simple text. Books begin with a locator map and population statistics and continue on to cover landforms, animals, cities, agriculture, history, food, and celebrations. Extras include two simple words in the nation’s language and a “Fun Facts” summary page. Coverage is positive, with an emphasis on the people, customs, and natural world rather than governments and institutions. In Cuba, the only mention of its communist government is a paragraph about the lifting of the travel ban due to the country’s recent rapprochement with the United States. This set continues the series’ focus on introducing countries with large immigrant populations in the United States. VERDICT Recommended additions.

Gilbert, Sara. Death Valley. ISBN 9781608186303; ISBN 9781628322385; ISBN 9781566606677.

––––. Everglades. ISBN 9781608186310; ISBN 9781628322392; ISBN 9781566606684.

––––. Grand Canyon. ISBN 9781608186327; ISBN 9781628322408; ISBN 9781 566606691.

––––. Great Smoky Mountains. ISBN 9781608186334; ISBN 9781628322415; ISBN 9781566606707.

––––. Yellowstone. ISBN 9781608186341; ISBN 9781628322422; ISBN 9781566606714.

––––. Yosemite. ISBN 9781608186358; ISBN 9781628322439; ISBN 9781566606721.

ea vol: 24p. (National Park Explorers). further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Creative Education. 2016. lib. ed. $19.95. pap. $9.99. ebk. $28.50.

K-Gr 3 –Dramatic photo covers and gorgeous full-page photographs entice even the youngest students to explore the beauty and unique geography of each park. Age-appropriate text is limited to about two to three sentences, augmented by photo captions, per page. Topics include an introduction to the park, its geography and geology, interesting plants and unique animals, and fun activities for visitors. The only minor weakness is an occasional photo that is poorly matched to the text or inadequately captioned, such as the industrial kilns and borax works in Death Valley. These books capture the splendor and majesty of some of our most-visited national parks, and their focus on natural scenes and plants and animals allow them to do double duty as geography and nature books. They are suitable for reading aloud or independent reading. VERDICT For all elementary collections.

Oachs, Emily Rose. Africa. ISBN 9781626173231; ISBN 9781681031484.

––––. Antarctica. ISBN 9781626173248; ISBN 9781681031491.

––––. Asia. ISBN 9781626173255; ISBN 9781681031507.

––––. Australia. ISBN 9781626173262; ISBN 9781681031514.

––––. Europe. ISBN 9781626173279; ISBN 9781681031521.

––––. North America. ISBN 9781626173286; ISBN 9781681031538.

––––. South America. ISBN 9781626173293; ISBN 9781681031545.

ea vol: 24p. (Discover the Continents). chart. diag. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Bellwether. 2016. lib. ed. $22.95. ebk. $22.95.

K-Gr 3 –This is an introductory series to Earth’s continents and the landforms, animals, and plants found on each one. Opening spreads provide some defining details about the continent and a “Did You Know?” box with a few main facts relating to language, climate, and/or famous landmarks. Subsequent pages cover the location relative to the equator, the land and climate, plants and animals, countries and people. A concluding “Fast Facts” page includes statistical and geographical information, including pictured “Top Landmarks” and popular tourist spots. Illustrations are the set’s strongest element, with a mix of labeled and captioned full-page and smaller boxed photos on each page, and shaded maps that show geographic features, landmarks, and cities are a plus. Although there are numerous sets about the continents for beginning readers, this one’s slightly different emphasis on the natural world will have wide appeal. VERDICT Solid introductions to support nonfiction reading requirements.

Oachs, Emily Rose. Arctic Ocean. ISBN 9781626173309; ISBN 9781681031552.

––––. Atlantic Ocean. ISBN 9781626173316; ISBN 9781681031569.

––––. Indian Ocean. ISBN 9781626173323; ISBN 9781681031576.

––––. Pacific Ocean. ISBN 9781626173330; ISBN 9781681031583.

––––. Southern Ocean. ISBN 9781626173347; ISBN 9781681031590.

ea vol: 24p. (Discover the Oceans). chart. diag. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Bellwether. 2016. lib. ed. $22.95. ebk. $22.95.

Gr 1-3 –Beginning readers will find general information about the five oceans—their locations, seas and currents, resources, and the animals and plants they sustain. Books open with a “Did You Know?” box with geographical or historical information and conclude with a “Fast Facts” page of statistical information. Text runs about two to three sentences per page. Large, high-quality photos of locations, plants, and animals are attractive and usually labeled rather than captioned. Shaded maps of the oceans are a plus, as are the maps that show hemispheres. Some discussed places do not appear on the maps, and Arctic places Hudson and Baffin bays in the Arctic rather than the Atlantic Ocean, an often disputed designation. VERDICT This set does not improve on recently published sets like Heinemann’s “Oceans of the World,” but remains an adequate supplementary choice.

Middle to High School

Bjorklund, Ruth. Hungary. ISBN 9780 531232958.

Mara, Wil. Myanmar. ISBN 9780531232941.

––––. Singapore. ISBN 9780531232972.

Shepherd, Donna Walsh. New Zealand. ISBN 9780531232965.

Somervill, Barbara A. United Arab Emirates. ISBN 9780531232989.

Sonneborn, Liz. Yemen. ISBN 9780 531232996.

ea vol: 144p. (Enchantment of the World). chron. further reading. index. maps. photos. Children’s Pr. 2016. lib. ed. $40.

Gr 5-8 –These new editions have been substantially rewritten, adding current information and human-interest profiles of people, many school-aged children, who live in each nation. There is some reduction in the amount of report information, but books are now more readable and will give readers a broader understanding of each country’s people and culture. Topics and format are little changed from the previous editions, and include geography, flora and fauna, history, government, economy, religion, popular and traditional culture, and food and clothing. Information about the environment is a welcome addition, as are authors’ objective discussions of each nation’s strengths, challenges and prospects. Color photos are large and crisp and capture each country’s beauty and culture. Numerous maps and several pages of “Fast Facts” provide additional information. VERDICT Strong choice for middle school libraries.

Clinton, Greg. The Louisiana Purchase. ISBN 9781502609625; ISBN 9781502609632.

––––. Puerto Rico and the Spanish-American War. ISBN 9781502609724; ISBN 9781502609731.

Kleinmartin, Hex. The Erie Canal. ISBN 9781502609663; ISBN 9781502609670.

––––. Seward’s Folly and Alaska. ISBN 9781502609700; ISBN 9781502609717.

Shoup, Kate. The California Gold Rush. ISBN 9781502609687; ISBN 9781502609694.

––––. Texas and the Mexican War. ISBN 9781502609649; ISBN 9781502609656.

ea vol: 96p. (Expanding America). bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. Cavendish Square. 2016. lib. ed. $42.79. ebk. $42.79.

Gr 9 Up –Books in this set share a common focus on American territorial or economic expansion, with uneven results. Gold Rush and Mexican War are the best of the group, with comprehensive overviews of events and analysis of their enormous impact on the U.S., but sometimes use stilted or old-fashioned language. Puerto Rico concentrates on American imperialism and the Spanish American War, mentioning Puerto Rico on only 13 pages. Erie Canal describes the political and technical challenges of building the canal, but its engineering explanations aren’t clear and the illustrations don’t clarify them. Louisiana spends a lot of time on Thomas Jefferson and his political and private lives. Alaska is somewhat dry. None of the material is documented, all of the books feature long blocks of text, and the maps are inadequate. As a group, they don’t improve on the many extant titles about these topics. VERDICT Consider Gold Rush and Mexican War as supplemental report choices.

Foley, Erin & Leslie Jermyn. Dominican Republic. ISBN 9781502608048; ISBN 9781502608055.

Foley, Erin & Rafiz Hapipi. El Salvador. ISBN 9781502608086; ISBN 9781502608093.

Kott, Jennifer. Nicaragua. ISBN 9781502608062; ISBN 9781502608079.

Malcolm, Peter & Elie Loslenben. Libya. ISBN 9781502607980; ISBN 9781502607997.

Nevins, Debbie. Haiti. ISBN 9781502608024; ISBN 9781502608031.

Sheehan, Sean. Cuba. ISBN 9781502608000; ISBN 9781502608017.

ea vol: 144p. (Cultures of the World). biblio. chart. chron. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. 2016. lib. ed. $47.07. ebk. $47.07.

Gr 7 Up –These third editions retain the format and topics of their predecessors, with comprehensive coverage of each country’s physical features, history, ethnic groups, culture, religion, languages, economy, food and festivals. The only completely new material is a much longer book introduction and a chapter on the environment. Chapters on government and the economy have received fairly extensive rewrites, but changes to the remaining chapters are generally limited to new chapter introductions, a few new paragraphs about recent events and updated statistical information. Authors objectively discuss each country’s problems and challenges. Most photos and illustrations have been replaced with more contemporary and attractive choices. These books provide a high level of detail, but they don’t always reflect significant societal and cultural change in the 20 years since the first editions were published. VERDICT Becoming dated, not recommended.

Stanborough, Rebecca. The Golden Gate Bridge. ISBN 9781491481967; ISBN 9781491482001.

––––. The Great Pyramid of Giza. ISBN 9781491481950; ISBN 9781491481998.

––––. The Great Wall of China. ISBN 9781491481974; ISBN 9781491482018.

Stefoff, Rebecca. The Panama Canal. ISBN 9781491481981; ISBN 9781491482025.

ea vol: 32p. (Engineering Wonders). further reading. glossary. photos. Capstone. 2016. lib. ed. $19.99. pap. $7.95.

Gr 4-7 –In a welcome change from the normal series approach, these titles place each featured structure into the context of its natural and cultural environments while discussing how it reflects the society that built it. Authors explain engineering concepts, challenges, and construction processes so clearly that readers will understand how engineers overcame seemingly impossible problems to design and build these magnificent structures. The texts include details from small-scale innovations, such as the inclusion of sticky rice in the mortar of the Great Wall to the large daunting challenges of building a bridge able to withstand the natural forces that buffet the San Francisco Bay. Illustrations are a mixture of drawings, period photos, and attractive contemporary images. VERDICT Good choice to introduce landmark structures and the engineering that made them possible.

Readers who “drop-in” on these series will find a wide array of people, cultures, and their lands. The best is Creative Education’s beautiful “National Park Explorers,” which shows primary readers the unique geography and flora and fauna of our national parks. Capstone’s “Engineering Wonders” gives middle-level readers an understandable exposition of how engineers built landmark world structures. Primary students can accompany Rourke’s diverse group of students in “Dropping In On” American cities and learn quirky information particular to each locale. Children’s Press’s extensively rewritten “Enchantment of the World” has up-to-date comprehensive report information for upper-middle level readers. Cavendish’s “Children Like Us” shows early elementary readers familiar and exotic aspects of life around the world. The latest titles in Bearport’s continuing primary series “Countries We Come From” emphasize the cultures of countries with large populations in the U.S. Primary readers will also enjoy the interesting landforms and animals in Bellwether’s “Discover the Continents.”

Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.