Finding Common Ground: Social Science Series Nonfiction

The social sciences shed light on the world around us and help us understand our place in it. This season’s selections cover a wealth of seemingly unrelated topics that touch our lives daily, even though we may not realize to what extent.

The social sciences shed light on the world around us and help us understand our place in it. This season’s selections cover a wealth of seemingly unrelated topics that touch our lives daily, even though we may not realize to what extent. You will find books on the food we eat, our beliefs in the afterlife, and our family traditions, among others. In these series, our families, communities, and cultures are studied with varying degrees of success. But together they bring the realization that our differences are far outnumbered by our commonalities.

 

ELEMENTARY

Bassington, Cyril. Festivals and Celebrations. ISBN 9781538238363; ISBN 9781538238349.
––––. Folktales. ISBN 9781538238400; ISBN 9781538238387.
––––. Legends. ISBN 9781538238448; ISBN 9781538238424.
Gregson, Agatha. Myths. ISBN 9781538238486; ISBN 9781538238462.
––––. Oral Histories. ISBN 9781538238523; ISBN 9781538238509.
––––. Traditions. ISBN 9781538238561; ISBN 9781538238547.
ea vol: 24p. (Cultures Connect Us!). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2019. Tr. $22.60. pap. $8.15.
K-Gr 2 –This series breaks down barriers by examining different cultural elements through the lens of shared experiences. Holidays around the world involve giving thanks, celebrating with family, and sharing meals. Oral histories, legends, and folklore exist in every culture to teach lessons, pass on values, and preserve memories. Traditions evoke the same sense of community though they may look very different. These books celebrate our differences and teach children to see the underlying similarities running through every culture. VERDICT A helpful tool to introduce children to our many cultural differences in a celebratory manner.

Cole, Barry. Angry. ISBN 9781731613264.
––––. Happy. ISBN 9781731613257.
––––. Sad. ISBN 9781731613271.
––––. Scared. ISBN 9781731613288.
––––. Surprised. ISBN 9781731613295.
ea vol: 12p. (My Feelings). photos. Rourke/Little Ready Readers. Apr. 2020. Board. $5.95.
PreS-K –An underwhelming study of emotional body language. Each title covers an emotion: angry, happy, sad, scared, and surprised. Full-spread images of babies moping, crying, or laughing are accompanied by a declarative sentence: “I mope,” ”I cry,” or “I laugh.” Each spread also includes the emotion being examined. The text is provided in English and Spanish, and the images portray a diverse range of races and ethnicities. However, some of the facial expressions are too nuanced. Surprised includes the actions of looking and staring as indicators of surprise, but they appear identical. VERDICT Consider this as a language learning resource rather than a study of emotional responses.

Devera, Czeena. Lend a Hand Around Town. ISBN 9781534149779.
––––. Lend a Hand at Home. ISBN 9781534149755.
––––. Lend a Hand at School. ISBN 9781534149762.
––––. Lend a Hand on the Playground. ISBN 9781534149786.
ea vol: 16p. (Helping Out). photos. Cherry Lake/Cherry Blossom. Aug. 2019. Tr. $11.36.
PreS-Gr 2 –The repetitive language and familiar images in this series will help build confidence in younger readers. Each book explores different ways that children can help others at home, at school, on the playground, and around town. Each page features a large, colorful image of children performing helpful tasks and one sentence with repeating structure and language: “I help deliver. I help bake,” or “I paint at my playground. I organize at my playground.” Each book includes a list of sight words of varying difficulty and a list of each statement from the book. VERDICT Young children love helping and reading. This series takes advantage of both to build skill and confidence.

Rustad, Martha E.H. All Kinds of Families. ISBN 9781977109026.
––––. Families Share Values. ISBN 9781977109057.
––––. Families Then and Now. ISBN 9781977109033.
––––. Families Work Together. ISBN 9781977109040.
––––. Family Celebrations. ISBN 9781977109064.
––––. Family Traditions. ISBN 9781977109071.
ea vol: 24p. (What Makes a Family). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone/Pebble. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.32.
PreS-Gr 2 –This charming series examines all the ways families are unique and yet still very much the same. Children are introduced to different types of families, such as blended, same-sex parents, foster parents, single parents, and extended families. Celebrations are religious, cultural, or created to suit a family’s needs. These include Day of the Dead, Juneteenth, birthdays, and report card days. Readers will learn how families share their own traditions and values and how they can work together to improve their communities and their homes. VERDICT This series is a loving look at the importance of families.

 

MIDDLE TO HIGH SCHOOL

Allman, Toney. Living a Healthy Lifestyle. ISBN 9781682827451.
Blohm, Craig E. Managing Money. ISBN 9781682827499.

McGhee, Leanne. Getting a Job. ISBN 9781682827437.
––––. Living on Your Own. ISBN 9781682827475.
Nardo, Don. Planning for College. ISBN 9781682827512.
ea vol: 64p. (Teen Life Skills). further reading. index. notes. photos. websites. ReferencePoint. Aug. 2019. Tr. $30.95.
Gr 6 Up –This series provides essential information young people need to navigate the real world. Teens will learn about healthy living, finances, college planning, and getting a job. Advice and information are designed for the modern, technology-driven world with the inclusion of online banking, ride-sharing, and budgeting apps. Dispersed throughout the pages are text boxes with quotes from young adults describing their experiences learning how to shop for groceries, start a business, and apply for a job. Included in each book are handy websites. VERDICT While the series is filled with useful content, getting it into the hands of teens may prove difficult outside of research assignments.

Barghoorn, Linda. Hoping for a Home After El Salvador. ISBN 9780778764946; ISBN 9780778765004.
––––. Hoping for a Home After Nigeria. ISBN 9780778764960; ISBN 9780778765028.
––––. Returning to Colombia. ISBN 9780778764861; ISBN 9780778764984.
Hudak, Heather C. My New Home After Iran. ISBN 9780778764953; ISBN 9780778765011.
––––. My New Home After Somalia. ISBN 9780778764977; ISBN 9780778765035.
Rodger, Ellen. My New Home After the Democratic Republic of the Congo. ISBN 9780778764878; ISBN 9780778764991.
ea vol: 32p. (Leaving My Homeland: After the Journey). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Crabtree. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.60. pap. $8.95.
Gr 4-6 –A heartbreaking look at the lives of refugees through the eyes of children. Forced to flee their homeland, each tale describes the difficulties families face running from violence and oppression only to encounter mistrust and prejudice in their adopted countries. The series sheds light on many questions children may have about refugees, such as why they had to leave their homes and why they often cannot return for decades after a conflict. The differences in attitudes and services provided by host countries are particularly vivid. VERDICT Told in a scrapbook style with lots of pictures and statistics, this series will humanize the people who are too often maligned and ignored.

Brennan, Shawn. Rice. ISBN 9780716628637.
––––. Salt and Pepper. ISBN 9780716628644.
––––. Sugar. ISBN 9780716628651.
––––. Tomato. ISBN 9780716628668.
Carrigan, Mellonee. Chocolate. ISBN 9780716628590.
––––. Corn. ISBN 9780716628606.
––––. Garlic. ISBN 9780716628613.
––––. Potato. ISBN 9780716628620.
ea vol: 48p. (Taste the World). glossary. index. photos. World Book. Sept. 2019. Tr. $189.00.
Gr 4-6 –This mouthwatering series introduces readers to the history and modern uses of common household ingredients. Foods such as chocolate, corn, and tomatoes receive the star treatment with delectable images, adorable cartoon characters, and plenty of colorful information boxes. Also included are delicious recipes for family snacks and meals. Each title examines the history of the ingredient from its first known use to its eventual spread around the globe, with interesting tidbits about its impact on cultures and religions. The books conclude with an international exploration of the food’s modern use. VERDICT A fun and informative look at the items in our pantries. This one will make you hungry.

Edwards, Sue Bradford. Pros and Cons of the Electoral College. ISBN 9781510547568.
Fajardo, Anika. Pros and Cons of Homework. ISBN 9781510547629.
Hutchison, Patricia. Pros and Cons of Vaccines. ISBN 9781510547551.
Seigel, Rachel. Pros and Cons of Playing Video Games. ISBN 9781510547599.
Terp, Gail. Pros and Cons of Animal Testing. ISBN 9781510547650.
ea vol: 48p. (Open for Debate). glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Smartbook Media/Lightbox. Aug. 2019. Tr. $60.
Gr 5-9 – “Open for Debate” covers controversial topics that will be familiar to kids. The issues range from homework and video games to vaccines, the Electoral College, and animal testing. Each book provides a history of the topic, a time line of important events, a quiz, and a glossary. What sets this series apart from similar titles are the online resources that accompany each book. Designed for classroom use, the Lightbox website includes maps, quizzes, videos, and activities. However, that is not enough to save the series from some questionable choices, the most troubling being the arguments against vaccines. The author presents a strong case for vaccinations and weak counterarguments: For example, vaccines do not always work; therefore it is reasonable to be opposed to them. VERDICT This series falls into the common trap of assuming every topic requires a response and instead presents poorly constructed arguments.

Gottschall, Meghan. Haunts and Horrors. ISBN 9781629208084.
––––. Legends of the Afterlife. ISBN 9781629208091.
––––. Near-Death Experiences. ISBN 9781629208107.
––––. Rituals and Traditions. ISBN 9781629208114.
ea vol: 48p. (Death Uncovered). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Full Tilt. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.99.
Gr 5-8 –Readers whose interests fall on the darker side of the human experience will be well served by this series. Topics include hauntings, rituals, near-death experiences, and the afterlife. Each volume is filled with tales of the supernatural and illustrated with half- and full-page images. The sections are short with large print, making it an easy sell to reluctant readers. Each title includes definitions, a quiz, a research activity, and resources for further investigation. The research activity is complete with steps to take for a thorough examination of the topic. VERDICT An unintimidating and engaging series for reluctant readers and fans of all things spooky.

Poole, H.W. Abuse Among Family and Friends. ISBN 9781422242001.
––––. Coping with Sexual Violence and Harassment. ISBN 9781422242018.
––––. Dealing with Dating and Romance. ISBN 9781422242025.
––––. Preventing Sexual Assault and Harassment. ISBN 9781422242032.
ea vol: 80p. (Sexual Violence and Harassment). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Mason Crest. Sept. 2019. Tr. $32.95.

Gr 7-10 –This timely series sets the record straight on sexual violence and provides important information for victims of abuse. Each chapter highlights common myths, such as the belief that most rapists are strangers or that victims can be responsible for their own assault. The series covers prevention, sexual assault within relationships, and how to cope with the aftermath of an assault. The author puts the reader in the role of victim and relative/friend of a victim, explaining how to care for yourself and how to support someone close to you. The clean and colorful layout is easy to read and does not detract from the serious nature of the content. Included in each title are text-dependent questions, research projects, and resources for survivors. VERDICT The wealth of statistics, definitions, and real-world examples makes this a compelling research resource. The humanizing language and content make it an excellent resource for survivors of sexual violence and those closest to them.


There is a lot to choose from among these series. “Sexual Violence and Harassment” (Mason Crest) gives readers a fresh understanding of the nature of sexual assault and methods to cope with the trauma. This series provides an important counter-narrative to the occasionally dismissive handling of abuse accusations. “Teen Life Skills” (ReferencePoint) gives real-life advice on navigating the financial world as a young person just starting out in life. “Cultures Connect Us!” (Gareth Stevens) and “What Makes a Family” (Capstone/Pebble) both celebrate diversity in the home and community while highlighting the many ways that we are similar. “Taste the World” (World Book) is a fun, food-filled, globe-trekking adventure through time that allows readers to learn about the staples of our diets.

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