Culture and Good Character | Social Science Series Nonfiction

The world seems like an increasingly complicated place. These series help children put the world in order by breaking society into manageable chunks. They cover musical instruments, cultural holidays, current events, and nations around the world.


The world seems like an increasingly complicated place. These series help children put the world in order by breaking society into manageable chunks. They cover musical instruments, cultural holidays, current events, and nations around the world. A current trend is informational series that help young children be better and do better through social and emotional learning. It is a response to a time of social upheaval, attacks on democracy, social isolation, and a global pandemic.



Dittmer, Lori. Chinese New Year. ISBN 9781640263246.
––––. Christmas. ISBN 9781640263253.
––––. Day of the Dead. ISBN 9781640263260.
––––. Diwali. ISBN 9781640263277.
––––. Easter. ISBN 9781640263284.
––––. Halloween. ISBN 9781640263291.
––––. Hanukkah. ISBN 9781640263307.
––––. Independence Day. ISBN 9781640263314.
––––. Kwanzaa. ISBN 9781640263321.
––––. Ramadan. ISBN 9781640263338.
––––. Thanksgiving Day. ISBN 9781640263345.
––––. Valentine’s Day. ISBN 9781640263352.
ea vol: 24p. (Seedlings: Holidays). The Creative Company/Creative Education. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.95.
K-Gr 3 –Young children are introduced to popular holidays celebrated in the United States and around the world in this beautiful series. Each book examines the history of a holiday as well as its traditions, symbols, and place on the calendar. Children learn about the origins of Halloween, the story behind the clay lanterns lit during Diwali, and reason gifts are given on Christmas. Each page features stunning photos of celebrations that will capture readers’ attention and make them want to learn more. The text is simple and friendly, working in tandem with the images. At the end of each book is a pictorial guide of the holiday’s symbols such as Day of the Dead’s sugar skulls and skeletons. This is followed by a glossary, resources, and an index. VERDICT This series perfectly captures the magic of each holiday and demonstrates how they are each unique and special. Recommended for school and public libraries.

Finne, Stephanie. Making Good Decisions. ISBN 9781645278528.
––––. Managing Time. ISBN 9781645278559.
––––. Practicing Self-Care. ISBN 9781645278580.
––––. Setting Limits. ISBN 9781645278610.
ea vol: 24p. (The Sky’s the Limit). Jump!/Blue Owl. Jan. 2021. Tr. $26.99.
Gr 2-5 –The emotional well-being of young people gets the attention it deserves in this series. Each book begins with information for caregivers, a vital introduction at a time when most children are learning and reading at home. Caregivers learn the meaning of social and emotional learning (SEL) and are provided topics for discussions before and after reading and an SEL goal specific to the topic of that book. The text of the titles provides examples of methods young people use to manage their time, reduce stress, and set boundaries. This is accompanied by full-page images featuring diverse children and families. Readers are then given steps to incorporate the activities into their lives. The text concludes with a page of goals and tools to help kids on their SEL path. The tools include role-playing, bullet journaling, and starting a planner. Back matter features a glossary, index, and link to more online resources. VERDICT This extremely helpful guide will provide a roadmap to securing the social and emotional health of children for caregivers during the pandemic and beyond.

James, Matilda. Bass Guitar. ISBN 9781532416576.
––––. Clarinet. ISBN 9781532416637.
––––. Guitar. ISBN 9781532416729.
––––. Piano. ISBN 9781532416903.
––––. Recorder. ISBN 9781532416965.
––––. Violin. ISBN 9781532417207.
ea vol: 20p. (Discover Musical Instruments). Xist. Mar. 2021. Tr. $26.99.
K-Gr 2 –Early readers are introduced to musical instruments in this clear and easy-to-read series. Each book describes the parts of the instrument, what type of instrument it is (woodwind, etc.), and how it is played with large images and simple sentences. Photos of the instruments are labeled with parts such as string, pick, and mouthpiece. Readers also learn where the instruments are played, in a band, alone, or in an orchestra. Each book closes with a photo glossary, index, and a page titled “things to do next,” which includes extension activities such as writing practice, drawing, and discussion. VERDICT This helpful series provides an easy way to integrate music and literacy. Recommended for school libraries and classrooms.

Lewis, Carrie. My Car in 2055. ISBN 9781728416281.
––––. My City in 2055. ISBN 9781728416304.
––––. My House in 2055. ISBN 9781728416298.
––––. My School in 2055. ISBN 9781728416311.
ea vol: illus. by Christos Skaltsas. 32p. (My Life in 2055). Lerner. Jan. 2021. Tr. $27.99.
Gr 3-5 –This series asks young readers to think about what their world might look like in 2055. The author and illustrator then offer their own vision of the future complete with hydrogen-fueled cars, police and traffic drones, and mycelium houses. But they are quick to point out that this is only one version of the future created based on current technology. These books are beautifully illustrated in a retro-futuristic style. Some of the information is based on potential future technological innovation such as completely automated cars, but much of it is based on low-tech lifestyle changes that we could adopt today: drive less, use renewable energy sources, and reduce the use of pesticides. Other ideas are even older, such as grow your own food and build communities around gardens. Readers will learn a lot about technology but they will also learn that a clean future starts with small steps. VERDICT A great combination of science vocabulary, environmental appreciation, and imagination.

Mattern, Joanne. Doughnuts. ISBN 9781644874332.
––––. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. ISBN 9781644874349.
––––. Hamburgers. ISBN 9781644874356.
––––. Popcorn. ISBN 9781644874363.
ea vol: 24p. (Our Favorite Foods). Bellwether/Blastoff! Readers. Jan. 2021. Tr. $25.95.
Gr 1-3 –Mouths will water while reading this series about some of our favorite treats. Young readers learn about the history and varieties of food with uncomplicated sentences, bolded vocabulary, and delicious photos. Maps help illustrate where certain delicacies originated and simple charts show how the food is made. A short time line offers a visual history of the food. Children will enjoy learning fun facts such as how doughnuts got their holes. Recipes are included for kids to try with adults. The series provides an explanation of its leveling process to help caregivers select appropriate texts. Back matter includes a glossary, resources, and an index. VERDICT This series is not for the health-conscious but it is a useful way to get little foodies reading. Just have snacks handy. Recommended for school and public libraries.

Rossiter, Brienna. Being Kind at Home. ISBN 9781644936788.
––––. Being Kind at School. ISBN 9781644936795.
––––. Being Kind During a Pandemic. ISBN 9781644936801.
––––. Being Kind Online. ISBN 9781644936818.
––––. Being Kind to Friends. ISBN 9781644936825.
––––. Encouraging Others. ISBN 9781644936832.
––––. Helping at Mealtime. ISBN 9781644936849.
––––. Helping with Chores. ISBN 9781644936856.
––––. Understanding Differences. ISBN 9781644938126.
––––. Volunteering. ISBN 9781644938133.
ea vol: 24p. (Spreading Kindness). North Star Editions/Focus Readers. Jan. 2021. Tr. $27.07.
Gr 2-3 –Young readers are introduced to many ways they can show kindness throughout their day. Some of the titles focus on what kindness looks like in different environments or situations—at home, with friends, during the pandemic, or at school. Other titles educate readers on volunteering, how to help around the house, or understanding our differences. Straightforward text accompanied by engaging images describes small acts of kindness such as sharing toys and cleaning up. Text boxes containing “fun facts” are placed throughout the text with quick tips such as “Keep your voice soft when you’re indoors.” The books conclude with a page of multiple-choice and open-ended questions. Back matter includes a glossary, index, and resources. VERDICT A helpful resource to get kids thinking about how their behavior impacts others. Recommended for school libraries.

Scragg, Hailey. I Can Be Calm. ISBN 9781731643254.
––––. I Can Be Kind. ISBN 9781731643247.
––––. I Can Feel. ISBN 9781731643223.
––––. I Can Move. ISBN 9781731643230.
ea vol: 16p. (Disney Learning). Rourke/Ready Readers. Jan. 2021. Tr. $27.07.
PreS-Gr 2 –This series introduces young readers to feelings, movement, kindness, and calming methods using Disney characters. Each book starts with four vocabulary words that will appear in the text. The following pages feature lovely illustrations from Disney movies interspersed with photos of children and families. Accompanying each image is one or two simple sentences. For example, in I Can Move, an illustration of Moana depicts the princess and her friends playing drums and reads “Moana can play the drums.” The next page is a photo of a little boy behind a drum set and reads “I can play the drums.” The back matter includes a picture glossary and index. While some of the glossary words work, some of the images will lead to confusion. The word “teacher” is accompanied by the image of a fish from Finding Nemo. Pre-readers will have difficulty connecting the two. VERDICT A fun vocabulary builder for Disney fans, this series uses beloved and familiar characters to introduce words and concepts.

Stocker, Shannon. Celebrating Virtually. ISBN 9781534180116.
––––. Coping with Changes. ISBN 9781534180079.
––––. Doing Your Part. ISBN 9781534180086.
––––. Finding the Helpers. ISBN 9781534180147.
––––. Learning at Home. ISBN 9781534180109.
––––. Social Distancing. ISBN 9781534180123.
––––. Staying Connected. ISBN 9781534180093.
––––. Staying Healthy. ISBN 9781534180130.
ea vol: 24p. (21st Century Junior Library Together We Can: Pandemic). Cherry Lake. Jan. 2021. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 2-3 –This is a timely and important guide for children navigating life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics include helping others, coping with changes, virtual learning, and staying connected. This series does a wonderful job of addressing children’s concerns and giving them opportunities to manage them, whether it be through exercise and creative pursuits or charity work and community involvement. Pages feature bold colors and large images of life during the pandemic. Extension activities are peppered throughout the text with discussion topics, craft ideas, and creative-thinking exercises. Back matter includes a glossary, resource list, and index. While the vocabulary words appear daunting, they are terms that children have probably heard many times during the pandemic. VERDICT This series manages to speak directly about the pandemic without seeming bleak and out of control. Children will understand that good is also happening and they can be a part of it. The stress-management skills will benefit readers long after the pandemic ends.

Taylor, Charlotte. I Am Fair. ISBN 9781538256374.
––––. I Follow the Rules. ISBN 9781538256459.
––––. I Say I’m Sorry. ISBN 9781538256411.
––––. I Show Good Sportsmanship. ISBN 9781538256206.
––––. I Take Turns. ISBN 9781538256299.
––––. We Work as a Team. ISBN 9781538256336.
ea vol: 24p. (We’ve Got Character!). Gareth Stevens. Jan. 2021. Tr. $22.60.
Gr 1-2 –This series teaches early readers how to be good people. Each title begins with a description of the behavior covered in the book, such as what it means to be fair and why it is important to take turns or apologize. The remainder of the book is filled with examples of children practicing the behavior followed by a full-page image. This could be two young girls splitting money they earned selling lemonade, a class taking turns on a slide, or a brother apologizing for spilling water and helping to clean it up. Back matter includes a glossary, resources, and index. VERDICT This series does not cover any new ground but it clearly addresses common problematic behaviors. Recommended for libraries that need coverage on this topic.

Vallepur, Shalini. Blow Up a Burger. ISBN 9781647475215.
––––. Break Down a Bento Box. ISBN 9781647475222.
––––. Dissect Dim Sum. ISBN 9781647475239.
––––. Pull Apart a Pizza. ISBN 9781647475246.
––––. Slice Up Sushi. ISBN 9781647475253.
––––. Split Up a Sandwich. ISBN 9781647475260.
ea vol: 24p. (Deconstructed Diets). Bearport/Fusion. Jan. 2021. Tr. $26.99.
Gr 2-3 –Young readers get an early education in nutrition with this fun and informative series. Each book takes a deep dive into a popular food item beginning with a short history of the food before delving into the ingredients by exploring the process of creating each ingredient. Readers will learn about which unhealthy additives they should avoid and healthy alternatives. They will also learn about the consequences of over-processing food and how to adjust recipes for a variety of diets. There is a lot of information but the infographic format keeps readers’ interest high. VERDICT An important introduction to nutrition and mindful eating. Highly recommended.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Brown, Holly. Life and Culture in East and Southeast Asia. ISBN 9781725321823.
Coleman, Miriam. Life and Culture in Southwest Asia and North Africa. ISBN 9781725321700.
Daly, D. E. Life and Culture in the United States and Canada. ISBN 9781725321540.
Klein, J. M. Life and Culture in Australia and the Pacific Realm. ISBN 9781725321861.
Morlock, Rachael. Life and Culture in Latin America. ISBN 9781725321588.
––––. Life and Culture in South Asia. ISBN 9781725321786.
Orr, Tamra & Jill Keppeler. Life and Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa. ISBN 9781725321748.
Vink, Amanda. Life and Culture in Europe. ISBN 9781725321625.
Wolf, Ryan. Life and Culture in Russia and the Eurasian Republics. ISBN 9781725321663.
ea vol: 48p. (People Around the World). Rosen/PowerKids. Jan. 2021. Tr. $30.25.
Gr 5-6 –Each title focuses on a geographical area and examines the culture of the countries within that location. The content is broken into chapters that include art and architecture, religion and festivals, history, politics, the natural environment, food, and languages. Throughout the text, readers will find sidebars with in-depth information on topics such as the Silk Road, Rohingya people, and the Khmer Rouge. Definitions are on each page and maps, charts, and images can be found throughout the books. The back matter includes a glossary, resources, and index. This series excels at dispelling the myth that geographical regions are homogenous by highlighting the differences between nations. However, the text itself is dry. Even descriptions of festivals and cultural phenomena fail to capture the excitement they should. VERDICT A good primer for young researchers.

Howell, Izzi. Go Quiz Yourself Around the World. ISBN 9781427128713.

––––. Go Quiz Yourself on Dinosaurs. ISBN 9781427128720.

––––. Go Quiz Yourself on Science. ISBN 9781427128737.

––––. Go Quiz Yourself on Space. ISBN 9781427128744.

––––. Go Quiz Yourself on the Human Body. ISBN 9781427128768.

Savery, Annabel. Go Quiz Yourself on Sports. ISBN 9781427128751.

ea vol: 48p. (Go Quiz Yourself). Crabtree. Jan. 2021. Tr. $31.32.

Gr 4-6 –What type of animal was a Dimetrodon? Why do stars appear to twinkle in the sky? In netball, how many seconds do you have to pass the ball? These are some of the questions readers will encounter in this series that encourages kids to quiz themselves periodically throughout the books. Each title covers a large topic area such as sports, science, and dinosaurs. The information is presented in short segments of infographic-style text and images followed by a short quiz on the material. There is a lot of information in the books but the format does not make it feel overwhelming. However, there is so much happening on the page that it can be difficult for the eye to figure out where to go. Each book concludes with an answer section, glossary, resource page, and index. VERDICT With interesting sports statistics, dinosaur diagrams, and fascinating space facts, this is a fun way to satisfy curious readers.


Upper Middle School toHigh School

Dougherty, Terri. Building a Budget and Savings Plan. ISBN 9781678200480.
Fernandes, Bonnie J. The Value of Stocks, Bonds, and Investments. ISBN 9781678200503.
Kallen, Stuart A. Managing Credit and Debt. ISBN 9781678200466.
Money, Carla. Finding a Job and Paying Taxes. ISBN 9781678200541.
Sharp, Katie. College and Career Planning. ISBN 9781678200527.
ea vol: 80p. (Money and Finance Guide). ReferencePoint. Mar. 2021. Tr. $41.27.
Gr 10 Up –This extremely important series teaches teens how to begin managing their financial lives. Topics include setting a budget, investing in the stock market, how to monitor your credit, and planning for college. The authors do an excellent job recognizing the intelligence of their audience and relating the topics to teens’ current lifestyles. The text is also up to date, complete with information on avoiding scams masquerading as financial advice on TikTok. Sprinkled among the text are interviews with financial experts and teens who are learning the basics on finance. However, while the information is vital, the text and content are dry. Few teens will select this out of personal interest. The back matter includes extensive source notes, a resource list, and an index. VERDICT This series offers a wealth of information. Recommended for school libraries.

Harris, Duchess & Alexis Burling. The Killing of George Floyd. ISBN 9781532194610.
Harris, Duchess & A.W. Buckey. Policing in America. ISBN 9781532194627.
Henzel, Cynthia Kennedy. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ISBN 9781532194160.
––––. Voting Issues of Today. ISBN 9781532194177.
London, Martha. The Energy of Tomorrow. ISBN 9781532194153.
McKinney, Donna B. Brexit. ISBN 9781532194139.
Murray, Laura K. Domestic Terrorism. ISBN 9781532194146.
Rowell, Rebecca. The World’s Wildfires. ISBN 9781532194184.
ea vol: 112p. (Special Reports Set 6). ABDO/Essential Library. Dec. 2020. Tr. $37.07.
Gr 6 Up –This series gives readers the context they need to understand today’s headlines and hashtags. Each title focuses on one newsmaking event and provides the history and important activities that have taken place around it. Readers will learn the difference between a hard and soft Brexit, the role of electricity in wildfires, and the true story of George Floyd, among many other topics. Throughout the books, text boxes offer deep dives into more minute details such as the rise of militias and a profile of the ACLU. ­Segments titled “From the Headlines” provide information on various issues in the news. Each book includes a glossary, resource list, and source notes. VERDICT This series provides excellent research material and will help students become more informed citizens.

“Deconstructed Diets” (Bearport/Fusion) gives kids a visual tour of familiar foods with tips for healthy eating without getting preachy. “Special Reports Set 6” (ABDO/Essential Library) provides excellent research material on current events and helps readers understand the context around the events. “Spreading Kindness” (North Star Editions/Focus Readers) teaches important social skills at a time when young children are not always able to interact with other kids. This year’s selection of series will give readers plenty of information to learn about the world, their interests, and themselves.

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