13 Series To Foster Social Awareness Among Young People

This season’s lineup does not shy away from complex topics, providing detail analysis of human rights violations, racism in the United States, and more.

As challenging as social consciousness can be for adults, it is only more so for children, who are just learning about the world around them. This season’s selections offer a variety of fare, but each is intended as a guide for students to better themselves in a challenging environment, from making a difference in communities and coping with forced relocation to understanding human rights violations and facing various moral dilemmas. Each series presented here illuminates, in some way, the shared experience of human societal behavior. People inevitably hurt one another, but, more profoundly, they help each other, with the hope that their contributions will make life easier for their neighbors and themselves.


Brennan, Linda Crotta. Maps: What You Need To Know. ISBN 9781515781097; ISBN 9781515781226.

––––. U.S. Landforms: What You Need To Know. ISBN 9781515781127; ISBN 9781515781257.

Ferguson, Melissa. American Symbols: What You Need To Know. ISBN 9781515781165; ISBN 9781515781271.

––––. U.S. Government: What You Need To Know. ISBN 9781515781189; ISBN 9781515781295.

Sherman, Jill. Continents: What You Need To Know. ISBN 9781515781103; ISBN 9781515781240.

––––. Money: What You Need To Know. ISBN 9781515781202; ISBN 9781515781288.

ea vol: 24p. (Fact Files). charts. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $25.32. pap. $6.95.

Gr 1-4 –Covering a range of topics from currency and world geography to U.S. culture, this bright set stands out for its vibrant photographs. Colorful charts, maps, and sidebars accompany clearly written text that, especially in the case of Money, appropriately simplifies complicated subjects for young readers. Unfamiliar words are defined both at the bottom of the page on which they appear and in the glossary. Despite three of the volumes’ focus on U.S. culture, this series is certainly not limited to that one nation; careful readers will discover the inclusion of graphics representing other writing systems, such as a Cyrillic globe in Maps, thereby subtly enhancing the series’ broader worldview. VERDICT An eye-catching selection, this will introduce a variety of basic topics to young readers.

Donner, Erica. Who Helps Animals? ISBN 9781620317600; ISBN 9781620317808.

––––. Who Helps Keep Us Healthy? ISBN 9781620317617; ISBN 9781620317815.

––––. Who Helps Keep Us Safe? ISBN 9781620317624; ISBN 9781620317822.

––––. Who Helps Us Get Around? ISBN 9781620317631; ISBN 9781620317839.

––––. Who Helps Us Learn? ISBN 9781620317648; ISBN 9781620317846.

ea vol: 16p. (Who Helps?). index. photos. Jump!/Tadpole. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $24.21. pap. $6.99.

PreS-Gr 1 –The adage “It takes a village to raise a child” is truly at work in this series, which will foster a sense of goodwill and community building among readers. Through settings familiar to the audience, kids meet various individuals who transport and keep animals and people safe, healthy, and educated. With the exception of Animals, featuring solely veterinarians, these tasks fall to many types of people, from parents, siblings, and friends to professionals, such as emergency and medical personnel, teachers, and transit workers. Simple reiterative text reinforces the message while providing the repetition needed to transition to independent reading. Pre- and post-reading activities are provided, including teachable skills like sight words, word study vocabulary, and reading levels for a variety of curricula. Vibrant photos show women and men in nontraditional roles as pilots and nurses, respectively, concluding with a group shot that sends the message that lots of individuals work together to help us. VERDICT For those community helper queries, this set fits the bill perfectly.

Glynne, Andy. Ali’s Story: A Real-Life Account of His Journey from Afghanistan. illus. by Salvador Maldonado. ISBN 9781515814122.

––––. Hamid’s Story: A Real-Life Account of His Journey from Eritrea. illus. by Tom Senior. ISBN 9781515814139.

––––. Juliane’s Story: A Real-Life Account of Her Journey from Zimbabwe. illus. by Karl Hammond. ISBN 9781515814146.

––––. Navid’s Story: A Real-Life Account of His Journey from Iran. illus. by Jonathan Topf. ISBN 9781515814153.

––––. Rachel’s Story: A Real-Life Account of Her Journey from Eurasia. illus. by Salvador Maldonado. ISBN 9781515814160.

ea vol: 32p. (Seeking Refuge). glossary. Picture Window. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $27.32.

PreS-Gr 2 –People having to flee from conflict often face hardships not fully comprehensible to small children. The ordeals of refugee families undergoing such journeys are explored here in an attempt to ease the fears and emotions such turmoil can generate. In most cases, the circumstances surrounding each forced relocation are sketchy, but from the perspective of children, that might be an accurate representation of the situation. Digitally created artwork enhances most volumes with a rustic quality. Much emphasis is placed on the spectrum of emotions that arise: anger and sadness, fear of being caught, school performance and separation anxieties, and insecurities stemming from language and cultural barriers. In some cases, the families are never reunited. Despite the claim that the series is based on “real-life accounts,” there are no references or sources provided. VERDICT A valid attempt at bibliotherapy that does not consistently provide closure or further information.

McClintock Miller, Shannon. Fiction or Nonfiction? ISBN 9781684100255.

––––. Find a Book! ISBN 9781684100279.

––––. Manners In the Library. ISBN 9781684100392.

––––. Staying Safe Online. ISBN 9781684100491.

ea vol: illus. by Kathryn Durst. 24p. (Library Skills). further reading. glossary. w/CD. Cantata Learning. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $33.99.

PreS-Gr 2 –Learning basic library navigation and safety is a fun and welcoming experience for this menagerie of curious animal friends. Bright whimsical illustrations, reminiscent of those found in coloring books, provide a merry environment full of kid appeal. This series aims to combine reading and music as an early literacy tool for language development. The rhyming text that constitutes much of the content is a cute, catchy song meant to teach emergent library skills. Song lyrics and sheet music are included along with a scannable QR code to stream and download the music—a nice bridge between books and technology. Great home literacy tips are also offered. While some volumes more strongly address their focus than others, this is still an engaging series that little ones are sure to enjoy. VERDICT An appealing addition to introduce library navigation and online safety, while encouraging early literacy practices at home.

Spalding, Maddie. Dimes. ISBN 9781503820036.

––––. Fifty-Cent Pieces. ISBN 9781503820050.

––––. Five-Dollar Bills. ISBN 9781503820098.

––––. Nickels. ISBN 9781503820029.

––––. One Hundred-Dollar Bills. ISBN 9781503820128.

––––. One-Dollar Bills. ISBN 9781503820074.

––––. Pennies. ISBN 9781503820012.

––––. Quarters. ISBN 9781503820043.

––––. Silver Dollars. ISBN 9781503820067.

––––. Ten-Dollar Bills. ISBN 9781503820104.

––––. Twenty-Dollar Bills. ISBN 9781503820111.

––––. Two-Dollar Bills. ISBN 9781503820081.

ea vol: 24p. (All About Money). chron. further reading. glossary. photos. websites. The Child’s World. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $27.07.

Gr 1-3 –Why were no quarters minted in 1931 and 1933? Which denomination is cheapest for the U.S. Treasury to manufacture? Emergent readers will learn the answers to these and many other questions in this introductory set. These slim volumes discuss the worth of each item, its written notation, and alternative denominations showing the same value. Clearly labeled photos of front and backsides explain the symbolism of U.S. currency, with plenty of photographs from older coins and bills no longer in circulation. While the minting and distribution of coins and bills is mentioned, as are heightened security features, it’s the history of each that proves most interesting of all. Brief time lines and sidebars highlight significant changes in the lives of each banknote and coinage and are accompanied by a useful map showing the locations of the four U.S. mints. VERDICT Ideal for educators as well as those curious about money.

Middle to High School

Abramovitz, Melissa. Understanding Addiction. ISBN 9781682822715.

Allman, Toney. Understanding Personality. ISBN 9781682822777.

––––. Understanding Self-Image and Confidence. ISBN 9781682822791.

Hirschmann, Kris. Understanding Motivation. ISBN 9781682822753.

––––. Understanding Sexual Identity and Orientation. ISBN 9781682822814.

Wilcox, Christine. Understanding Family and Personal Relationships. ISBN 9781682822739.

––––. Understanding Violent Behavior. ISBN 9781682822838.

ea vol: 80p. (Understanding Psychology). further reading. glossary. photos. websites. ReferencePoint. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $39.93.

Gr 9 Up –“The human brain is an extremely complex organ—the most complicated structure in the known universe,”and understanding its functioning is no less a complex science. Without glossing over the ambiguity of psychology, this series presents various interpersonal relationships, destructive behaviors, and personality traits to illustrate the way the human brain works. Plenty of case studies and research from all over the globe are cited, balancing both classic reputed theories with more current interpretations while dispelling outdated models. Coverage spans infancy to adulthood, illuminating the effects of age, culture, disability, gender, and societal ideals on mental well-being. Psychological disorders and illness are given limited coverage within some volumes, with brief discussion of therapies to make change possible. Although the biochemistry involved in psychology is addressed, the focus here is less neurological and more sociological, aiming at the implications of our interactions with ourselves and others. VERDICT A useful tool for understanding the study of the mind and the societal impact of social interactions.

Bakshi, Kelly. Roots of Racism. ISBN 9781532110375.

Blakemore, M.T. White Privilege. ISBN 9781532110399.

Burling, Alexis. Race in the Criminal Justice System. ISBN 9781532110368.

Eboch, M.M. Race and Economics. ISBN 9781532110344.

Edwards, Sue Bradford. What Are Race and Racism? ISBN 9781532110382.

Harris, Duchess & Rebecca Rissman. Race and Policing. ISBN 9781532110351.

ea vol: 112p. (Race in America). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $37.07.

Gr 9 Up –Marginalized communities affected by racism and prejudice in the United States, both historically and currently, are represented, with much of the discussion focusing on relations between white and black people. However, coverage is not limited to the United States. The texts present a worldwide account of slavery as far back as ancient times, discredited pseudoscientific ideas popular across nations, and the aftereffects of centuries of discrimination. Race relations in the United States are liberally discussed, with much consideration for legislation and activist efforts like the civil rights movement and Black Lives Matter. Informative sidebars augment the text, and discussion starters are included with each chapter’s conclusion. An essential facts section nicely summarizes each topic before presenting an annotated list of social organizations. VERDICT This captivating look at race and racism is extremely pertinent to current national and international events.

Cummings, Judy Dodge. Hip-Hop Culture. ISBN 9781532110276.

––––. The Men of Hip-Hop. ISBN 9781532110313.

DeAngelis, Audrey & Gina DeAngelis. Hip-Hop Dance. ISBN 9781532110283.

Llanas, Sheila. The Women of Hip-Hop. ISBN 9781532110320.

Lusted, Marcia Amidon. Hip-Hop Music. ISBN 9781532110306.

Morris, Rebecca. Hip-Hop Groups. ISBN 9781532110290.

ea vol: 112p. (Hip-Hop Insider). further reading. glossary. photos. websites. ABDO. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $37.07.

Gr 9 Up –Hip-hop is a culture unto itself, presented here as the combination of four key elements: deejaying, emceeing, break dancing, and graffiti writing. Groundbreaking personalities, innovative techniques, and a collective social consciousness are key to hip-hop’s artistry and authenticity and its ability to unite music listeners. Consideration is given to hip-hop’s roots in 1970s New York, the influence of African oral traditions, and the rivalry between the East and West Coast interpretations. Coverage is also given to the legal ramifications of music sampling and the criticism of the lyrics and imagery of rap. The role Afrocentrism played in instilling renewed pride among African Americans and the contributions of Latinx people are also mentioned, as is the role of media exposure in bringing this art form into the mainstream. This series celebrates what has become a music staple to much of the world. VERDICT A highly attractive exposé of the artistry and legacy behind a popular music style for high schoolers.

Currie-McGhee, Leanne. Human Trafficking. ISBN 9781682822272.

Haugen, David M. Illegal Immigrants. ISBN 9781682822296.

Karson, Damon. The LGBT Community. ISBN 9781682822319.

Steffens, Bradley. Genocide. ISBN 9781682822258.

––––. Torture. ISBN 9781682822357.

Uschan, Michael V. Refugees. ISBN 9781682822333.

ea vol: 80p. (Human Rights in Focus). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. ReferencePoint. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $39.93.

Gr 9 Up –Humanity has come quite far in terms of basic human rights, but it still has farther to go in terms of their defense. This timely, global analysis thoroughly explores a variety of harmful practices, in addition to examining populations at high risk of exploitation. Each volume discusses the nuances of its themes, the physical, psychological, and emotional consequences, as well as international movements from reputed agencies, such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and Human Rights Watch. Denouncing the violations presented and promoting acceptance of those impacted is encouraged to remove stigmas and create meaningful, lasting change. Discussion questions are provided with each chapter, and an annotated list of activist organizations with which readers can get involved is included. Not for the fainthearted, the direct writing is at times quite graphic in its straightforward coverage but nonetheless necessary for conveying the urgency of these issues. VERDICT A difficult but necessary look at pressing worldwide problems. Consider for YA nonfiction collections.

Henzel, Cynthia Kennedy. Mexican Immigrants: In Their Shoes. ISBN 9781503820302.

––––. Vietnamese Immigrants: In Their Shoes. ISBN 9781503820326.

Hutchison, Patricia. Somali Immigrants: In Their Shoes. ISBN 9781503820319.

MacCarald, Clara. Irish Immigrants: In Their Shoes. ISBN 9781503820289.

––––. Japanese Immigrants: In Their Shoes. ISBN 9781503820272.

Monnig, Alex. German Immigrants: In Their Shoes. ISBN 9781503820265.

Omoth, Tyler. Cuban Immigrants: In Their Shoes. ISBN 9781503820258.

––––. Italian Immigrants: In Their Shoes. ISBN 9781503820296.

ea vol: 32p. (Immigrant Experiences). chron. further reading. glossary. photos. websites. The Child’s World. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 6-8 –Leaving a life behind to start anew elsewhere is a daunting task but one that speaks to the essence of the American spirit. Each group represented here has much in common yet very different experiences in their journeys. Starting with a time line and fast facts that succinctly illuminate key factors and events, the authors expand on the personal journeys of a few individuals at various points in history, causing some titles to more current feel than others. Each volume includes a table of immigration statistics through the years and discussion questions for critical thinking. Undocumented immigration, addressed in one book, is not given wide coverage, yet racism and oppression experienced both in homelands and the United States are covered in all. VERDICT An excellent series exploring the breadth of immigration stories for middle schoolers.

Hunt, Jilly. The Fight Against War and Terrorism. ISBN 9781484641422; ISBN 9781484641460.

––––. Human Rights for All. ISBN 9781484641415; ISBN 9781484641453.

––––. Protecting Our Planet. ISBN 9781484641439; ISBN 9781484641477.

––––. Saving Endangered Animals. ISBN 9781484641408; ISBN 9781484641446.

ea vol: 48p. (Beyond the Headlines!). charts. chron. further reading. glossary. photos. websites. Heinemann-Raintree. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $33.32. pap. $9.95.

Gr 6 Up –Improving the world both environmentally and socially is the focus of this visually rich series. Relevant historical events are briefly related, with emphasis on the consequences of decisions leading to unforeseen problems. The global efforts of groups such as the United Nations and Greenpeace to address these issues encompasses much of the subject matter. High-quality photos, both archival and contemporary, as well as charts, graphs, and impressive time lines support clearly written text. Case studies of role models who have made or are making a difference are generously provided. Each volume concludes with suggestions for readers’ involvement, with a nod to the importance of being informed. VERDICT A refreshing and much-needed perspective on global issues and the international efforts to address them. A fine addition to middle school libraries.

Miller, Caitlyn & Daniel E. Harmon. 21st-Century Surveillance Technologies. ISBN 9781502626745.

Miller, Caitlyn & Gerry Boehme. Edward Snowden: Heroic Whistleblower or Traitorous Spy? ISBN 9781502626738.

Miller, Caitlyn & Andrew Coddington. Mass Government Surveillance: Spying on Citizens. ISBN 9781502626721.

Miller, Caitlyn. When Companies Spy on You: Corporate Data Mining and Big Business. ISBN 9781502626752.

Small, Cathleen. Surveillance and Your Right to Privacy. ISBN 9781502626769.

ea vol: 112p. (Spying, Surveillance, and Privacy in the 21st Century). chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $42.79.

Gr 9 Up –Big Brother is watching, or so it would seem in this exhaustive work. Surveillance and spying have existed for centuries, but technological advancement over recent decades has changed the way information is gathered, causing alarm. The pros and cons of both past and current spy tactics are explored, as is big business’s practice of data mining for marketing purposes. Past and current legislation and the ethics of government and economic surveillance are looked at with a critical eye. Heavy emphasis is placed on the need for national security and the controversies surrounding government practices and the protection of individuals’ privacy rights. Cybersecurity and risks to personal privacy through the use of today’s high-tech, sophisticated modes of communication are also explored. Extremely current case studies appear in frequent sidebars, while time lines, relevant organizational contact information, and additional resources are included in the back matter. VERDICT A thorough and timely examination of a disconcerting topic for teens.

Orr, Tamra B. BP Oil Spill and Energy ­Policy. ISBN 9781534100428; ISBN 9781634728645.

––––. Columbia Space Shuttle Explosion and Space Exploration. ISBN 9781534100398; ISBN 9781634728614.

––––. Hurricane Katrina and America’s Response. ISBN 9781534100374; ISBN 9781634728591.

––––. Invention of Facebook and Internet Privacy. ISBN 9781534100411; ISBN 9781634728638.

––––. Obama vs. McCain and the Historic Election. ISBN 9781534100381; ISBN 9781634728607.

––––. Polar Vortex and Climate Change. ISBN 9781534100404; ISBN 9781634728621.

––––. September 11 and Terrorism in America. ISBN 9781534100367; ISBN 9781634728584.

––––. Tucson Shooting and Gun Control. ISBN 9781534100435; ISBN 9781634728652.

ea vol: 32p. (Modern Perspectives). further reading. glossary. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $29.93. pap. $14.21.

Gr 6-8 –Eight historical topics are presented through fictitious accounts in this “alternative viewpoints”–type narrative aimed at stimulating critical thinking skills. From the very first page, readers are reminded that the same event can look very different based on personal opinions and are then given three contrasting perspectives of each. Although online and print sources are listed for further reference, the facts of each event are never clearly spelled out and must be inferred from the narratives. Concrete resolutions are also not offered, as problems arising in the aftermath are summed up. Appropriate photos with informative captions accompany the text, as do discussion questions. Despite some incidents seeming slightly dated, this has many useful educational applications in critical thinking and debating skills, making it a good precursor to such assignments prevalent in many high school curricula. It is also a strong tool for teaching empathy, tolerance, and respect. ­VERDICT An intriguing take on current events that encourages active reader engagement. Consider to stimulate conversations with students.

Notable series this season include Cantata Learning’s “Library Skills,” an adorably fun tool addressing basic library navigation, safety, and etiquette for the youngest patrons. Middle schoolers will be encouraged to look critically at timely events in Cherry Lake’s “Modern Perspectives,” and they will also gain more insight into U.S. immigration after reading The Child’s World’s “Immigrant Experiences.” The ability of an art form to address wide-felt social issues is the theme behind ABDO’s “Hip-Hop Insider,” an insightful read for older audiences. But it is Cavendish Square’s “Spying, Surveillance, and Privacy in the 21st Century” that is arguably the most concerning for young adults, as privacy and confidentiality are evergreen topics.

Rebecca Gueorguiev, New York Public Library

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Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


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