Essential Workers | Jobs & Careers Series Nonfiction

This season’s series introduce myriad work paths and opportunities, with most blending practical information about certain jobs with visuals that affirm most aspects of diversity across industries, vocations, and professions. Essential workers take the spotlight, with those in the health care, food and grocery, and delivery sectors getting a well-earned and long-overdue nod.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic, along with the uprising for racial justice and the need for equity, diversity, and inclusion across disciplines and career paths, has changed the ways in which we think about work. How can educators and caregivers explain the changing world of work to young learners? This season’s series will help them do just that, introducing myriad work paths and opportunities, with most of the series blending practical information about certain jobs with visuals that affirm most aspects of diversity across industries, vocations, and professions. Still, some of the books fall short of accurately representing diversity, specifically gender identity and expression, in the workforce. All youth should see their unique identities and experiences represented in the books they read, especially as they consider a world of career options. Essential workers take the spotlight in this season’s choices, with those in the health care, food and grocery, and delivery sectors getting a well-earned and long-overdue nod.

 

Elementary

Anderson, AnnMarie. Meet a Doctor! ISBN 9780531136836.
––––. Meet a Firefighter! ISBN 9780531136867.
––––. Meet a Librarian! ISBN 9780531136812.
––––. Meet a Teacher! ISBN 9780531136843.
Herrick, Becky. Meet a Mail Carrier! ISBN 9780531136829.
Unwin, Cynthia. Meet a Nurse! ISBN 9780531136850.
ea vol: illus. by Lisa Hunt. 32p. (In Our Neighborhood). Scholastic/Children’s Press. Jan. 2021. Tr. $25.
Gr 2-4 –Emma and Theo explore their community in the context of different careers, such as librarianship, teaching, nursing, and more. Each job is explored as if children were encountering the worker in everyday situations. For example, in Meet a Librarian!, Emma and Theo meet their librarian, Mr. Pal, because they need to visit the library for their science project. Mr. Pal shows them how to use online databases, navigate the Dewey Decimal system, and scan their books, giving a realistic portrayal of daily duties. Each book provides a mock interview with the worker, as well as job-specific tips, such as how to address an envelope to be mailed (shared by Daniel, the mail carrier) and a nurse’s tips for how to stay safe and healthy. This series shines in every way: diversity is reflected in the illustrations, text, and captions. Detailed photos create visual interest while providing fast facts; and children who experience physical disabilities are positively featured. VERDICT This series is versatile and fun to read, uplifts diverse experiences, and is an all-around slam dunk for any collection.

Blevins, Wiley. Be Brave! ISBN 9781634408288.
––––. Move It! ISBN 9781634408301.
BOYNTON, Alice. Make It, Build It! ISBN 9781634408295.
––––. That’s Odd! ISBN 9781634408318.
ea vol: 24p. (Look! Books: What a Job). Red Chair. Jan. 2021. Tr. $25.32.
Gr 1-4 –Beekeepers, nurses, smokejumpers, window washers, snack inspectors, snake milkers, roller coaster makers, and a broad range of other careers based on common themes are explored in this series. These books are truly unique, as they present some lesser-known but nonetheless important jobs and career paths that may otherwise go overlooked. Readers will learn how giant parade balloons are made, why snack inspectors are important, and how odors in common household products are tested by real people. Each job profile is about two pages; lines of text are spaced appropriately and are paired with complementary and fascinating photographs of each role in action. Another great aspect of this series: the final section of each book is called “Learn More at the Library,” a bibliography of resources that kids can explore if curiosity strikes them. VERDICT This is a standout series for content and would make a welcome addition to all kinds of libraries.

Johnson, Robin. City Workers During ­COVID-19. ISBN 9781427128317.
––––. Food Workers During COVID-19. ISBN 9781427128324.
––––. Health Care Workers During COVID-19. ISBN 9781427128331.
––––. Volunteers During COVID-19. ISBN 9781427128348.
ea vol: 24p. (Community Helpers During COVID-19). Crabtree. Jan. 2021. Tr. $23.60.
Gr 2 Up –These four books highlight the contributions of different kinds of workers in several industries and how they help keep their communities safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples include librarians, grocery store workers, teachers, food bank volunteers, doctors, nurses, mental health workers, first responders, and many others. What makes this series special is not only its relevance to current events, but also the ways in which these industries and workers are positively portrayed as heroes in their local communities. A wealth of information is provided without overwhelming readers; short paragraphs are interspersed with color photos that provide facts in captions. Photographs feature people of different ages wearing masks and participating in physical distancing, while still maintaining normal, healthy connections to routines and daily life. Notably, this series does an excellent job of reflecting different aspects of racial, age, and ability diversity. These books may provide comfort to children and families who have struggled during the pandemic, while also inspiring readers to consider careers that benefit their neighbors and community. VERDICT A timely and essential addition to virtually any collection that celebrates the bravery of community members who work hard to keep us safe.

Mahoney, Emily. What Do Bus Drivers Do All Day? ISBN 9781538256930.
––––. What Do Construction Workers Do All Day? ISBN 9781538256855.
––––. What Does the Mayor Do All Day? ISBN 9781538256817.
––––. What Do Farmers Do All Day? ISBN 9781538256893.
––––. What Do Firefighters Do All Day? ISBN 9781538256732.
––––. What Do Teachers Do All Day? ISBN 9781538256770.
ea vol: 24p. (What Do They Do?). Gareth Stevens. Jan. 2021. Tr. $22.60.
Gr 1-4 –Six common jobs and daily duties of each are highlighted in these books about bus drivers, teachers, construction workers, farmers, firefighters, and civic leaders. Divided into six short chapters, each book gives examples of how people in the job go about their day and why their jobs are important to the functioning of society. Text and pictures do not overlap in this series, which makes it easier to recognize letters and words against a solid background. Color photos of people on the job are dynamic and feature both men and women in different roles, as well as diversity in each job category. Older adults and intergenerational aspects of civic life are featured in this series. VERDICT A great choice for larger public library collections.

Moening, Kate. Cashiers. ISBN 9781644873991.
––––. Counselors. ISBN 9781644874004.
––––. Delivery Drivers. ISBN 9781644874011.
––––. EMTs. ISBN 9781644874028.
ea vol: 24p. (Community Helpers). Bellwether/Blastoff! Readers. Jan. 2021. Tr. $25.95.
K-Gr 2 –Cashiers, counselors, delivery drivers, and EMTs, and the importance and community impact of each role, are introduced in this series. Readers will recognize a lot of different examples of how they encounter these essential workers in real life: while grocery shopping, waiting for a delivery, or going to their counselor for help. The book about counselors helps normalize a child’s experience visiting with a counselor in a variety of situations—for example, after having a disagreement with a peer. Each page includes two or three short statements, along with an accompanying image that appropriately complements the text. Notable to this series is its depiction of many different diversity identifiers, including race, culture, ethnicity, and ability. Caregivers may be inspired to point out these everyday heroes to children as they encounter them in daily life. VERDICT A timely addition to any collection, including home libraries.

Murray, Julie. Chefs. ISBN 9781098205782.
––––. Custodians. ISBN 9781098205799.
––––. Delivery Drivers. ISBN 9781098205805.
––––. Farmers. ISBN 9781098205812.
––––. Grocery Store Workers. ISBN 9781098205829.
––––. Nurses. ISBN 9781098205836.
ea vol: 24p. (My Community: Jobs Set 3). ABDO/ABDO Kids Junior. Dec. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
PreS-Gr 1 –What do chefs do all day? How do nurses keep us healthy? This six-part series explores the day-to-day routines of chefs, custodians, delivery drivers, farmers, grocery store workers, and nurses, and why their essential work matters in the daily lives of many people. Each spread displays a color photograph on one side, with a maximum of three very simple statements on the other. Concepts are very basic (“Chef plans the menu. Arlo makes a list”), and most statements are no more than five words in length. The strength of this series is its versatility and usability in many reading situations: one-on-one, in the classroom, in a story time, or solo for more advanced readers who are trying to gain confidence. VERDICT An easy choice for early literacy collections; day care centers and preschools may also want to consider.

Murray, Julie. ER Doctors. ISBN 9781098223045.
––––. ER Nurses. ISBN 9781098223052.
––––. Firefighters. ISBN 9781098223069.
––––. Military Personnel. ISBN 9781098223076.
––––. Paramedics. ISBN 9781098223083.
––––. Police Officers. ISBN 9781098223090.
ea vol: 24p. (Emergency Jobs). ABDO/Dash!. Dec. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 1-3 –This slightly more advanced series about a variety of professions gives basic facts while remaining interesting and exciting to early readers. Information about the daily experiences of people in the job, required education and training, and challenges faced by each profession are included in these books, as well as fast facts, a glossary, and an index. Without overwhelming readers, each spread offers both words and pictures, which complement each other perfectly and reflect what the text aims to communicate. In ER Doctors, readers may recognize the image of a doctor wearing a mask and a face shield as he tests a patient, making this series realistic and up-to-date. Both men and women are shown in different professional roles, and racial diversity is also reflected in detailed and animated color photographs. Online resources are included in each book, giving readers more options for further exploration. VERDICT A solid update for larger elementary school and public library collections.

 

Upper Elementary to Middle School

Hamilton, John. Green Berets. ISBN 9781532194559.
––––. Navy SEALs. ISBN 9781532194566.
––––. United States Air Force. ISBN 9781532194573.
––––. United States Army. ISBN 9781532194580.
––––. United States Marine Corps. ISBN 9781532194597.
––––. United States Navy. ISBN 9781532194603.
ea vol: 48p. (Xtreme Armed Forces). ABDO/ A&D Xtreme. Dec. 2020. Tr. $31.36.
Gr 5 Up –Different branches of the U.S. military and associated careers are highlighted in this six-book series. Each book provides a history of the branch, as well as common tools used by military professionals, a glossary, online resources, and an activity challenge related to the activities and duties of each role. The strength of this series is that the information is clearly organized and presented, which will benefit readers who are interested in military careers but who might be reluctant readers. The downside to this series is the lack of gender diversity represented in the photographs. Overall, the series offers a wealth of information about different careers but falls short of accurately representing different identities in the military industry. VERDICT This series might supplement a larger collection but offers limited diversity representation.

 

Upper Middle School to High School

Miller, J. P. Combat Experts. ISBN 9781731643551.
––––. Medical Workers. ISBN 9781731643537.
––––. Research Professionals. ISBN 9781731643568.
––––. Service Providers. ISBN 9781731643575.
––––. Technical Professionals. ISBN 9781731643544.
––––. Tradespeople. ISBN 9781731643520.
ea vol: 32p. (Careers in the US Military). Rourke/High Tide. Jan. 2021. Tr. $27.50.
Gr 6-9 –Middle school readers will be fascinated to learn about these less familiar careers in the U.S. military. Six traditional and nontraditional military careers are identified in these books, each of which defines the scope of the job, required training, and resources for further exploration. Information is thoughtfully organized and visually cohesive, and will appeal to readers at different interest and comprehension levels, with text, captions, and photos placed on each spread. This series is authored by a Black female veteran of the U.S. Air Force, whose short biography appears on the back of each book, making this series a good way to highlight and expand the presence of Black female authors in nonfiction collections. ­VERDICT Middle and high school collections should consider.


Publishers pivoted quickly under difficult circumstances to produce books that provide relevant information about the changing nature of work. It can sometimes be challenging to identify and purchase nonfiction series books by BIPOC authors, which makes Rourke/High Tide’s “Careers in the US Military,” written by a Black female veteran, an outstanding choice for middle and high school collections. Red Chair’s “Look! Books: What a Job” will appeal to the most curious of readers, with its unlikely list of quirky jobs. Two other outstanding series this season are Scholastic/Children’s Press’s “In Our Neighborhood,” for its true commitment to diversity in both visuals and text, as well as Crabtree’s “Community Helpers During COVID-19,” which normalizes physical distancing and mask wearing.

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