An Evolution of Democracy: Government Series Nonfiction

Many of the most important issues facing Americans today are the same matters the United States and its citizens have been struggling with for centuries. One could argue many of these contentious debates are hotter than ever. The following series look at foundational documents and major social issues, while clearly and effectively showing how meaningful change has come about and what roadblocks still exist.

Many of the most important issues facing Americans today are the same matters the United States and its citizens have been struggling with for centuries. One could argue many of these contentious debates are hotter than ever. The following series look at foundational documents and major social issues, while clearly and effectively showing how meaningful change has come about and what roadblocks still exist. Many series include ways young people can take a stand and exert power through protest, education, phone calls, lobbying, voting, or joining and supporting organizations. With examples of court cases, legal struggles, and action and activism, these new and forthcoming series provide critical updates to ongoing issues as well as challenging readers to interrogate how their own views have been shaped.

 

ELEMENTARY

Anderson, Jennifer Joline. Exploring Media and Government. ISBN 9781541555860.
––––. Exploring Voting and Elections. ISBN 9781541555846.
Krasner, Barbara. Exploring Checks and Balances. ISBN 9781541555853.
––––. Exploring the Executive Branch. ISBN 9781541555891.
Smith-Llera, Danielle. Exploring the Judicial Branch. ISBN 9781541555884.
––––. Exploring the Legislative Branch. ISBN 9781541555877.
ea vol: 32p. (Searchlight Books ™ — Getting into Government). further reading. glossary. index. photos. Lerner. Aug. 2019. Tr. $30.65.
Gr 3-5 –Using straightforward language, this overview of how the U.S. maintains a democracy and how government works invites readers to take action and think critically. The series examines the duties, roles, and work of those in various political offices, as well as how ordinary citizens interact with the government and are affected by policies. Pages contain only a few sentences, and many large photographs are scattered throughout. While each volume provides historical context, the focus is on contemporary people and issues, with most photographs showing current or recent office holders. Sidebars called “That’s a Fact!” and “How Government Affects You” explain things such as the history of voting rights, Trump’s travel ban, filibustering, and book banning. Most volumes offer suggestions through activities like student government or volunteering. VERDICT Governmental basics come alive in this smart, concise, and effective series. A great first purchase.

Bowers, Matt. Understanding How Laws Are Made. ISBN 9781681516721; ISBN 9781681524580.
––––. Understanding Presidential Elections. ISBN 9781681516745; ISBN 9781681524603.
––––. Writing the Bill of Rights. ISBN 9781681516714; ISBN 9781681524573.
––––. Writing the Declaration of Independence. ISBN 9781681516738; ISBN 9781681524597.
––––. Writing the U.S. Constitution. ISBN 9781681516752; ISBN 9781681524610.
Spengler, Kremena. Understanding the Path to Citizenship. ISBN 9781681516707; ISBN 9781681524566.
ea vol: 32p. (Sequence American Government). chron. index. photos. websites. Amicus/Sequence. Aug. 2019. Tr. $31.35. pap. $9.99.

Gr 2-5 –Simple explanations, an engaging tone, and repetition work together to teach readers about the steps involved in seeing important American ideas and processes through to completion and implementation. From the historical moments that led to these concepts to contemporary views and implications, the information is always age-appropriate and just enough to be thorough without being overwhelming. As events unfold, a running time line at the bottom of each spread summarizes the steps in the process. Plentiful full-color pictures, paintings, and maps include captions that reinforce what readers learned in the text (for example, the role of a committee may be talked about in the text, the time line, and the picture’s caption). The bright color palette, strong shapes, uncluttered pages, and frequent exclamations (But wait! Good news! Hooray!) all keep these volumes lively and easily readable. VERDICT A great choice for young readers just learning about these key concepts, processes, and documents.

Lusted, Marcia Amidon. The Bill of Rights. ISBN 9781977108432.
––––. The Magna Carta. ISBN 9781977109156.
––––. The Mayflower Compact. ISBN 9781977109163.
––––. The Star-Spangled Banner. ISBN 9781977108449.
Murray, Laura K. The Declaration of Independence. ISBN 9781977108425.
––––. The U.S. Constitution. ISBN 9781977108418.
ea vol: 24p. (Shaping the United States of America). glossary. index. photos. Capstone/Pebble. Aug. 2019. Tr. $25.99.
Gr 1-3 –Using age-appropriate explanations, foundational documents of the United States are explored through events that led to their creation. The inclusion of the Magna Carta and the Mayflower Compact show how both were vital in creating and shaping the Constitution. The volume on the Star-Spangled Banner gives historical context for the important poem that went on to become the country’s national anthem. Colorful illustrations (mostly paintings from or of the era), reproductions of historical documents, and contemporary photographs are used effectively. A noteworthy feature is that bolded vocabulary words are not just defined in the glossary but also in sidebars near where they first appear in the text. Despite their brevity, all volumes clearly illustrate why the documents were necessary at the time, and how their importance continues. VERDICT A good choice for all elementary libraries.

 

MIDDLE TO HIGH SCHOOL

Acks, Alex. Can States Make Their Own Laws? ISBN 9781978507128; ISBN 9781978508415.
––––. Is Every American Adult Allowed to Vote? ISBN 9781978507081; ISBN 9781978508477.
Mapua, Jeff. Can Anyone Own a Gun? ISBN 9781978507135; ISBN 9781978508378.
Ohnaka, Kathryn. Do Immigrants Have the Right to Come to the United States? ISBN 9781978507111; ISBN 9781978508439.
Schalter, Ty. Can Certain Religions Be Outlawed? ISBN 9781978507104; ISBN 9781978508392.
Schmermund, Elizabeth. Do Women Have Equal Rights? ISBN 9781978507098; ISBN 9781978508453.
ea vol: 48p. (Ask the Constitution). further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Enslow. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.93. pap. $11.70.
Gr 5-8 –Broaching contentious issues with a conversational tone, these books explore the Constitution and other historical documents to reveal the original intent, changing definitions, and the complicated fights for and against modern and historical issues. Each edition illustrates how everyday lives are affected by these issues, explores how the Supreme Court decides cases, and examines how the Constitution changes to expand rights and protections. Readers will gain a better understanding of the complicated relationship between what amendments meant at the time they were written and what they mean to people today. The clean layout has just enough pictures, text boxes, and graphics to keep readers moving through these complicated arguments without feeling bogged down. All volumes look to what the future may hold for various laws, rights, definitions, and regulations. VERDICT Solid overviews and effective presentation.

Crayton, Lisa A. The Fight for Disability Rights. ISBN 9781508185444; ISBN 9781508185437.
Hurt, Avery Elizabeth. The Fight for Civil Rights. ISBN 9781508185413; ISBN 9781508185406.
LUSTED, Marcia Amidon. The Fight for Women’s Rights. ISBN 9781508185536; ISBN 9781508185529.
Nagle, Jeanne. The Fight for Animal Rights. ISBN 9781508185383; ISBN 9781508185376.
Smith, Devlin. The Fight for LGBTQ+ Rights. ISBN 9781508185475; ISBN 9781508185468.
Wolny, Philip. The Fight for the Environment. ISBN 9781508185505; ISBN 9781508185499.
ea vol: 112p. (Activism in Action: A History). bibliog. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen/Rosen Young Adult. Aug. 2019. Tr. $35.32. pap. $17.65.
Gr 7 Up –Readers looking to take a deep dive into activism and political engagement will be well served by this comprehensive series about the impassioned advocacy, transformative moments, and influential legislative impact of major social change movements. Landmark events, progress, challenges, and the important work of changemakers, from individual citizens to organizations and communities, are detailed. Moving from its earliest history to new generations continuing the work to maintain and expand rights, protections, and privileges, these books provide clear arguments and analysis. The focus is generally on North America, with the volume on the environment providing a more global view. Nearly all editions offer a chapter on empowering readers to find a cause and suggest ways to get involved. Sidebars explore certain subjects more in depth. Powerful photographs, both historical and contemporary, enhance the texts. VERDICT Suitable for all collections, these thorough titles educate and inspire.

Beck, Michelle Dakota. Mental Health. ISBN 9781422243961.
Burton, Erica. Race Relations. ISBN 9781422244005.
Gallagher, Jim. Gun Control. ISBN 9781422243923.
Jordan, James. Religious Freedom. ISBN 9781422244012.
Nicole, Ashley. Criminal Justice System. ISBN 9781422243886.
––––. Education. ISBN 9781422243893.
––––. Poverty and Welfare. ISBN 9781422243985.
––––. Privacy and Social Media. ISBN 9781422243992.
Pidcock-Reed, Heather. The Environment. ISBN 9781422243909.
––––. Immigration. ISBN 9781422243947.
Whittington, Mark R. Gender Equality. ISBN 9781422243916.
––––. Health Care. ISBN 9781422243930.
––––. Jobs and Economy. ISBN 9781422243954.
ea vol: 112p. (Contemporary Issues). charts. glossary. photos. websites. Mason Crest. Aug. 2019. Tr. $35.93.
Gr 7 Up –This debate-focused series will inspire and inform readers as they wade through the divergent views held on hot-button topics. After an introduction with some historical context and summaries of the biggest concerns in each issue, subtopics are explored using opposing viewpoints in essay format. Careful to always consider the roles of race, class, and gender, these essays examine the complexities of the issue, roles of institutions, processes, evolution of systems, constitutional rights, challenges, and improvements. Educational videos (accessible via QR codes) are included, as are text-dependent questions and suggestions for research projects. Vocabulary words are listed and defined before each chapter, with an overall series glossary appended in each book. Charts, pull quotes, and photographs showing the unrest and activism of the modern era are used sparingly. VERDICT The setup of arguing both sides of a debate drives home the complexity of the issues. Impressively thorough.

Berne, Emma Carlson. Guns and the #NeverAgain Movement: What Would It Take to End Mass Shootings? ISBN 9780756561727; ISBN 9780756562274.
Braun, Eric. The Deep State Conspiracy: Does It Exist? ISBN 9780756561734; ISBN 9780756562281.
Smith-Llera, Danielle. You Are Eating Plastic Every Day: What’s in Our Food? ISBN 9780756561741; ISBN 9780756562298.
Stanborough, Rebecca. Sexual Harassment in the Age of #MeToo: Crossing the Line. ISBN 9780756561710; ISBN 9780756562267.
ea vol: 64p. (Informed!). bibliog. charts. glossary. index. photos. Capstone/Compass Point. Aug. 2019. Tr. $35.32. pap. $8.95.
Gr 5-9 –Contemporary social issues are investigated by examining the surrounding laws, rights, debates, court cases, and backlash. The role of protest, social movements, changing behaviors and beliefs, and toxic traditions and choices are shown to play into the development of these matters. Though text-heavy, the layout is broken up with visuals including bar graphs, pie charts, infographics with statistics, maps, time lines, and photographs. Fact boxes and sidebars present additional information on specific topics, people, terms, and moments. Each edition concludes with offering ways to get involved, with information such as what to do if someone you know is assaulted, how to help combat gun violence, or what you can do to help with the problem of plastic pollution. The additional resources at the end include multipart critical thinking questions to show reading comprehension and tie these larger issues into students’ daily lives. VERDICT Solid, up-to-date explorations of topical issues.

Bodden, Valerie. The Hunt for Osama bin Laden. ISBN 9781640261754; ISBN 9781628327380.
––––. The War in Iraq. ISBN 9781640261778; ISBN 9781628327403.
Goodman, Michael E. The Extreme ­Climate. ISBN 9781640261792; ISBN 9781628327427.
––––. The Refugee Crisis. ISBN 9781640261785; ISBN 9781628327410.
Whiting, Jim. The Human Genome. ISBN 9781640261747; ISBN 9781628327373.
––––. The Rise of Social Media. ISBN 9781640261761; ISBN 9781628327397.
ea vol: 48p. (Turning Points). charts. chron. glossary. index. photos. websites. Creative Education. Aug. 2019. Tr. $41.35. pap. $14.
Gr 4-7 –The weighty topics presented in this series are tied together by the idea that the advances, achievements, and ideas explored represent significant turning points in history. The accounts look at events leading up to these moments, the people involved, the intricacies of the issues, as well as the impact, aftermath, and continued challenges. Densely packed and filled with names, dates, places, and brief overviews of very large issues and ideas, these volumes are almost too much to digest for anyone other than the serious researcher. Sidebars look at specific events and ideas (America’s deadliest hurricane, Saddam Hussein’s rise to power, and Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian refugees). Full-color photographs at times enhance the text but at other times feel like filler. The standout title is the timely and comprehensive look at the refugee crisis. VERDICT A supplemental choice for larger nonfiction collections.

Brundle, Harriet. Immigration. ISBN 9781510544468.
––––. Racism. ISBN 9781510544499.
––––. Refugees. ISBN 9781510544529.
––––. Staying Safe Online. ISBN 9781510544550.
ea vol: 32p. (Global Concerns). glossary. index. photos. Smartbook Media/Lightbox. Aug. 2019. Tr. $60.
Gr 4-8 –This uneven series addresses major issues by offering relatively uncomplicated views of complex topics. Simplistic sections, for example, on how it feels to be an immigrant or how others feel about immigrants and refugees provide answers that feel unsatisfactory. Some volumes make good use of powerful photographs. Others, like the title on racism, rely on too many stock photos, at times to cringeworthy effect (the large heading “What are discrimination and prejudice?” is above a picture of a group of incredibly happy-looking people). While the edition on staying safe online feels out of place in the series, it would be useful to have for upper elementary units on digital safety and citizenship. This series has a digital extension (with link and code in the book) providing audio, videos, activities, curated links, quizzes, and more. VERDICT An unexceptional look at issues that require more depth and nuance than are given.

Harris, Duchess with Kristin Marciniak. Being Transgender in America. ISBN 9781532119033.
––––. With Rebecca Rowell. Growing Up ­LGBTQ. ISBN 9781532119040.
––––. With Kristin Marciniak. LGBTQ Discrimination in America. ISBN 9781532119057.
––––. With Martha Lundin. LGBTQ Rights and the Law. ISBN 9781532119064.
––––. With Jill C. Wheeler. LGBTQ Service in the Armed Forces. ISBN 9781532119071.
––––. LGBTQ Social Movements in America. ISBN 9781532119088.
ea vol: 112p. (Being LGBTQ in America). bibliog. glossary. index. photos. ABDO/Essential Library. Aug. 2019. Tr. $37.07.
Gr 6 Up –This series mixes personal stories with legal, historical, global, and contemporary perspectives on LGBTQ issues. Volumes address challenges, protections, and discrimination; political frameworks; economic issues; health care; safety and violence; barriers to acceptance; and the importance of support. Repeated focus on mental health, the dangers of conversion therapy, the importance of intersectionality, and the consequences of erasure and exclusion of certain groups (bisexuals, asexuals, and black trans women) helps bring important issues to the forefront. Text boxes include discussion starters or delve deeper into topics like being a better ally, the psychological benefits of hormone therapy, and microaggressions. Graphics are scattered throughout, as are many vibrant photographs representing the wide spectrum of gender and sexuality. All emphasize progress and look toward the future of equality through activism, inclusion, and education. VERDICT Sensitive and affirming, this excellent series emphasizes awareness and understanding. A must-have for all collections that serve teens.

Johnson, Anna Maria. Freedom of Speech. ISBN 9781502645074; ISBN 9781502645067.
Miller, Derek. Military Force. ISBN 9781502645043; ISBN 9781502645036.
––––. Money in Politics. ISBN 9781502644930; ISBN 9781502644923.
––––. Voter Disenfranchisement. ISBN 9781502645104; ISBN 9781502645098.
Shoup, Kate. Corruption in Politics. ISBN 9781502645012; ISBN 9781502645005.
Young-Brown, Fiona. Fake News and Propaganda. ISBN 9781502644961; ISBN 9781502644954.
ea vol: 80p. (Dilemmas in Democracy). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. Aug. 2019. Tr. $35.64. pap. $17.64.
Gr 7 Up –Significant issues in politics are highlighted in this thorough series detailing how major political concerns could threaten everyday citizens and democracy itself. Key contributors, effects, dangers, regulations, theories, misconceptions, debates, and consequences are explored. Chapters provide up-to-date examples of the current state of these important topics. Though the primary focus of each text is the United States, all do delve into global issues. Text boxes that are barely differentiated from the main text offer more information on certain subjects like lobbyists, movie propaganda during WWII, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the record-breaking protests of 2017 and 2018, and Guantánamo Bay. The major downfall of this series is how visually unappealing it is; long blocks of uninterrupted text sometimes go on for pages. Charts, maps, and other graphics are used sparingly, but the primary visuals are overly large photographs. VERDICT Well written and useful but marred by the unattractive design.

Mihaly, Christy. Defining and Discussing ­Climate Change. ISBN 9781731614759; ISBN 9781731612823.
––––. Defining and Discussing Freedom of the Press. ISBN 9781731614742; ISBN 9781731612816.
––––. Defining and Discussing Free Speech. ISBN 9781731614766; ISBN 9781731612830.
––––. Defining and Discussing Human Rights. ISBN 9781731614728; ISBN 9781731612793.
––––. Defining and Discussing ­Immigration. ISBN 9781731614711; ISBN 9781731612786.
––––. Defining and Discussing Women’s Rights. ISBN 9781731614735; ISBN 9781731612809.
ea vol: 48p. (Shaping the Debate). glossary. index. Rourke/Connections. Aug. 2019. Tr. $34.22. pap. $9.95.
Gr 5-9 –With attention-grabbing introductions and striking photographs, this series gives readers plenty of information to understand both sides of major debates. Covering facts, court cases, laws, opinions, important milestones, and larger political contexts, the books make the impact of these issues clear. While primarily focused on the United States, each volume does offer a look at more global views. The ­layout and design of these books really make them stand out, with formats that vary from page to page. Information is presented in a variety of ways—detailed captions, graphs, maps, charts, statistics, illustrations—and traditional blocks of text rarely run more than half a page, making this series accessible to readers who may struggle to get through so much information. VERDICT An exceptional and effective series.


While all of these series provide timely updates and put historical actions into context, the most successful ones mix creative design with quality writing and contemporary references. “Being LGBTQ in America” (ABDO/Essential Library) stands out, offering a thorough and important look at the many issues LGBTQ people face. Throughout the texts, statistics and research from many important educational and civil rights organizations are cited, often referring to guidelines for best practices. Many of the other series have certain titles that rise above the rest of the volumes. The entry on disability rights in “Activism in Action” (Rosen/Rosen Young Adult) is particularly noteworthy as it addresses an often-neglected topic. The edition on propaganda and fake news, from “Dilemmas in Democracy” (Cavendish Square) may update collections, as would the volume on freedom of the press and trusting the media from Lerner’s “Getting into Government” (Lerner).

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