From Antiquity to Zuckerberg | Nonfiction Series Update

This latest batch of series nonfiction for elementary and middle school students is an eclectic mix of art, STEM, history, and more.


Axelrod, Alan. The Revolutionary War: 1775–1783. ISBN 9780789212535; ISBN 9780789260642.

Robertson, James I., Jr. The Civil War: 1861–1865. ISBN 9780789212528; ISBN 9780789260659.

ea vol: illus. by Mort Künstler. 48p. (See American History). chron. Abbeville. Apr. 2016. lib. ed. $13.95. ebk. $7.95.

Gr 3-5 –Each volume opens with a quick overview of the specific war before launching into a chronological exploration of major and minor battles. Both additions suffer from a static layout: large blocks of uninterrupted text with images appearing in the same pattern. The illustrations, paintings done by Künstler, are dramatic and capture the beauty of the U.S. landscape. Unfortunately, in Revolutionary War, an image of the Sons of Liberty with their faces darkened and feathers in their caps accompanies the Boston Tea Party spread. While the text does explain that the Sons of Liberty disguised themselves as “Mohawk Indians,” the illustration remains startling. Slavery is mentioned but not fully discussed in Civil War. A time line and a list of key people with descriptions round out each title. While fans of Künstler’s paintings will enjoy his work here, the lack of photos and other graphic elements is unlikely to draw students.

Bacher, Lindsay. Alia Muhammad Baker: Saving a Library from War. ISBN 9781634074711; ISBN 9781503807174.

Baxter, Roberta. Aron Ralston: Pinned in a Canyon. ISBN 9781634074698; ISBN 9781503807181.

Pearson, Yvonne. The Chilean Miners: Buried Alive. ISBN 9781634074735; ISBN 9781503807327.

Sacks, Nathan. Malala Yousafzai: Fighting for an Education. ISBN 9781634074742; ISBN 9781503807150.

Uhl, Xina M. Abby Sunderland: Alone on the Indian Ocean. ISBN 9781634074704; ISBN 9781503807198.

Zee, Amy Van. Bethany Hamilton: Shark Attack Survivor. ISBN 9781634074728; ISBN 9781503807167.

ea vol: 24p. (True Stories, Real People). further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. The Child’s World. Jan. 2016. lib. ed. $18.95. ebk. $29.95.

Gr 3-6 –A thrilling set of stories about people who overcame enormous odds and dangerous situations to achieve success. Though informational, the text tends to simplify events and concepts. This is most glaring in the glossary of Malala Yousafzai, where the Koran is partially defined in relation to the Taliban (“The Koran is the main sacred book for Muslims. The Taliban didn’t like any books that were not the Koran.”). Readers will enjoy the focus on kid-friendly issues like autonomy (Abby Sunderland; Malala Yousafzai) and perseverance (Alia Muhammad Baker; Bethany Hamilton), with just a dash of terror (Aron Ralston; The Chilean Miners). Overall, there is a sense of unevenness; the three books dealing with Westerners are situations very specific to those people, whereas the three titles on individuals outside of the United States relate to war, oppressive groups, and large-scale tragedies. Dialogue and thoughts are cited in the back matter, a useful and smart addition. Hand to vicarious readers looking for inspirational tales where the stakes are high.

Bodden, Valerie. Finding the Rhyme in a Poem. ISBN 9781608186204; ISBN 9781628322521; ISBN 9781566606806.

––––. Picturing Words in a Poem. ISBN 9781608186211; ISBN 9781628322538; ISBN 9781566606813.

––––. Poking Fun in a Poem. ISBN 9781608186228; ISBN 9781628322545; ISBN 9781566606820.

––––. Who Is a Poet? ISBN 9781608186235; ISBN 9781628322552; ISBN 9781566606837.

ea vol: illus. by Monique Felix. 24p. (Write Me a Poem). further reading. glossary. index. websites. Creative Education. Jan. 2016. lib. ed. $19.95. pap. $9.99. ebk. $28.50.

Gr 1-3 –An introduction to key concepts in poetry with a selection of works by European and U.S. poets. Picturing Words is the most successful of the lot, with its contextual and glossary definitions of vocabulary words and the relevant and age-appropriate selection of poems. The illustrations in each volume, while fantastical, are a bit odd and don’t always align with the text. The least successful of the bunch is Who Is a Poet? for the missed opportunity of mentioning oral poetry traditions but not directly naming them, no discernible connection between the text and illustrations, and the claim that Langston Hughes’s poems were mainly about “poor black people.” This statement is reductive in comparison to the treatment of Emily Dickinson and Pablo Neruda. Consider Picturing Words for lessons on imagery and observation.

Bowman, Chris. Eastern Chipmunks. ISBN 9781626173354; ISBN 9781681031606.

––––. Red Squirrels. ISBN 9781626173361; ISBN 9781681031613.

––––. Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. ISBN 9781626173378; ISBN 9781681031620.

––––. Striped Skunks. ISBN 9781626173385; ISBN 9781681031637.

ea vol: 24p. (North American Animals). chart. diag. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Bellwether. Jan. 2016. lib. ed. $24.95. ebk. $22.95.

K-Gr 3 –An exploration of familiar backyard animals. Each spread is composed of a few sentences that provide basic information on physical characteristics, size, diet, predators, or offspring. Diagrams that repackage this content using photographs are found throughout. In addition to a map locating where in North America the topic species is most prominent, a conservation scale (ranging from a bright green “Least Concern” to a deep red for “Extinct”) is featured. The appeal here is the crisp photos that showcase the animals in a way that can be described simply as cute: an eastern chipmunk with its cheeks full, a squirrel with its tiny pink tongue out, a plump hummingbird on a branch, and a doe-eyed skunk. Consider these additions as primers for local outdoor field trips with lower elementary students.

Cornell, Kari. Facebook Founder and Internet Entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg. ISBN 9781467795272.

––––. Mars Science Lab Engineer Diana Trujillo. ISBN 9781467795302.

––––. Minecraft Creator Markus “Notch” Persson. ISBN 9781467795265.

––––. Nintendo Video Game Designer Shigeru Miyamoto. ISBN 9781467795319.

––––. Theoretical Physicist Stephen Hawking. ISBN 9781467795289.

––––. Urban Biologist Danielle Lee. ISBN 9781467795296.

ea vol: 32p. (STEM Trailblazer Bios). chron. further reading. glossary. index. notes. websites. Lerner. Apr. 2016. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 2-5 –These palatable biographies of trailblazing techies emphasize their subjects’ childhoods and examine how their roots influenced later ingenuities. A tunnel and cave exploration by a young, lantern-carrying Shigeru Miyamoto is an allusion to his later video game creations Mario and The Legend of Zelda. This narrative style provides students with a lesson on how small beginnings can lead to great things and might inspire pride in their own developing STEM skills. The images are clear and relevant to the accompanying text. The artist’s interpretation of the big bang that is found in Stephen Hawking is a bit unclear and without further context will likely confuse readers. The bright, clean format and accessible tone make these entry biographies great for classrooms and libraries.

Greek, Joe. Solving Real-World Problems with Transportation Engineering. ISBN 9781680482621.

Istakhorov, Selma. Solving Real-World Problems with Aerospace Engineering. ISBN 9781680482638.

Lew, Kristi. Solving Real-World Problems with Environmental and Green Engineering. ISBN 9781680482645.

Loria, Laura. Solving Real-World Problems with Electrical Engineering. ISBN 9781680482591.

Lusted, Marcia Amidon. Solving Real-World Problems with Agricultural Engineering. ISBN 9781680482614.

Rauf, Don. Solving Real-World Problems with Chemical Engineering. ISBN 9781680482652.

Shea, Therese. Solving Real-World Problems with Civil Engineering. ISBN 9781680482607.

––––. Solving Real-World Problems with Mechanical Engineering. ISBN 9781680482669.

ea vol: 32p. (Let’s Find Out!: Engineering). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Britannica. Jan. 2016. lib. ed. $24.45.

Gr 2-4 –Each title focuses on the practical applications of a specific branch of engineering. Students will learn the history of the topic field, major developments, famous figures, its use in everyday life, and some of the necessary job requirements. Chemical Engineering is successful in relating kid-friendly examples to explore complicated concepts: “Whenever you blow a bubble with chewing gum, you are seeing the work of a chemical engineer.” The font is large and clear. However, many long, unbroken blocks of text and a static layout will likely be a challenge for readers. The photos are mostly contemporary. For instance, a photo of a steamroller preparing a road for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, appears in Transportation Engineering, and Electrical Engineering shows a variety of kids using computers, smartphones, and more. A good selection for robust science collections with a demand for STEM-related materials.

Riggs, Kate. What Is Cubism? ISBN 9781608186242; ISBN 9781628322224; ISBN 9781566606905.

––––. What Is Gothic Art? ISBN 9781608186259; ISBN 9781628322231; ISBN 9781566606912.

––––. What Is Impressionism? ISBN 9781608186266; ISBN 9781628322248; ISBN 9781566606929.

––––. What Is Modernism? ISBN 9781608186273; ISBN 9781628322255; ISBN 9781566606936.

––––. What Is Realism? ISBN 9781608186280; ISBN 9781628322262; ISBN 9781566606943.

––––. What Is Romanticism? ISBN 9781608186297; ISBN 9781628322279; ISBN 9781566606950.

ea vol: 24p. (Artworld). further reading. glossary. index. reprods. websites. Creative Education. Feb. 2016. lib. ed. $19.95. pap. $9.99. ebk. $28.50.

Gr 1-3 –An exploration of six popular art movements. Each volume begins with a casual introduction to the topic (for instance, Gothic Art states, “If you see a sad face made of stone or…stained glass…you may be looking at Gothic Art.”). Although the content doesn’t deviate much from simple observations and general traits of each movement, there is a sense that readers now have the tools to identify—or at least differentiate among—the styles. However, within each title, the movements are not discussed in relation to one other (i.e., realism was a break from romanticism), which could hinder an ability to see art history as a conversation. Out of the bunch, Impressionism is the highlight, as it maintains a tight focus on the basic tenet of the art style by thoroughly delving into the concepts of light and color. With uneven quality in the reproductions, this series is a supplemental purchase. Consider Impressionism if necessary.

Sieving Pelkki, Jane. Healthy Eating. ISBN 9780531228487; ISBN 9780531233306.

SON, John. Relaxation and Yoga. ISBN 9780531228470; ISBN 9780531233290.

Squire, Ann O. ADHD. ISBN 9780531228425; ISBN 9780531233269.

––––. Dyslexia. ISBN 9780531228432; ISBN 9780531233276.

––––. Flu. ISBN 9780531228463; ISBN 9780531233283.

––––. Lyme Disease. ISBN 9780531228418; ISBN 9780531233252.

ea vol: 48p. (A True Book: Health). Children’s Pr. Sept. 2016. lib. ed. $29. ebk. $7.95.

Gr 3-5 –Set readers on a quest for truth about health and wellness issues with this series. Bright colors and images guide readers as they gain a broad but detailed overview of the subject. They will learn about nutrition, the concept of asana in yoga, the hemispheres of the brain, the dangers of the flu, and more. When applicable, tips for preventing and treating an ailment are provided. In Relaxation and Yoga, step-by-step instructions for basic poses are included with a photo of an adult, teen, or child demonstrating each stance. In Dyslexia and ADHD, the text gently reminds readers (and caregivers) of the importance of effective treatment plans, patience, and understanding. The generally consistent layout makes for an accessible reading experience. However, the “Famous Folks with ADHD” spread in ADHD is a bit confusing, chronologically speaking, with Leonardo da Vinci and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart coming after Albert Einstein. For libraries with an interest in health issues for upper elementary students and where the series is popular.

Townsend, John. Air Force. ISBN 9781599209852.

––––. Army. ISBN 9781599209821.

––––. Navy. ISBN 9781599209845.

––––. Special Operations. ISBN 9781599209838.

ea vol: 32p. (Action Force). chron. glossary. index. photos. Smart Apple. Jan. 2016. lib. ed. $31.95.

Gr 3-6 –This series considers World War II through the role of different branches of world militaries (the focus is mainly on the Allies, but the Axis powers are included). The works are general, beginning with a quick refresher on World War II—key players and dates—before going on to cover how the topic military branch (for instance, the army) was used (Army covers the number of army soldiers for a particular country, the weapons they used, and more). The importance of strategy and heroism is highlighted in all of the titles. Chapters called “Case Study” are also featured in each volume and provide an overview of a specific campaign, operation, or battle. The layout can be distracting, with multiple fonts and font sizes on the same page. While each cover has an up-close portrait of a soldier or a small group of soldiers, the images within each installment are mostly of large scenes, fuzzy battlefield shots, and military posters. Scattered layout and the switching between the Allies and Axis powers are likely to confuse readers. Consider only where materials on World War II and military history are in demand.

Wunderlich, Richard. Math on the Job: Building a Business. ISBN 9780778723578; ISBN 9780778723639; ISBN 9781427117380.

––––. Math on the Job: Caring for Marine Animals. ISBN 9780778723585; ISBN 9780778723646; ISBN 9781427117397.

––––. Math on the Job: Keeping People Healthy. ISBN 9780778723592; ISBN 9780778723653; ISBN 9781427117403.

––––. Math on the Job: Serving Your Community. ISBN 9780778723608; ISBN 9780778723660; ISBN 9781427117410.

––––. Math on the Job: Working in Sports. ISBN 9780778723622; ISBN 9780778723714; ISBN 9781427117434.

––––. Math on the Job: Working in Construction. ISBN 9780778723615; ISBN 9780778723691; ISBN 9781427117427.

ea vol: 32p. (Math on the Job). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Crabtree. Apr. 2016. lib. ed. $27.60. pap. $8.95. ebk. $41.40.

Gr 3-6 –Each title covers three careers, focusing on the way math is essential to these professions. In Keeping People Healthy, students are challenged to track a patient’s infection, vitals, weight, and more. Mathematical formulas and tricks are provided in a reoccurring “Math Toolbox” sidebar that expands on how an operation works and its application in the field. The upbeat tone occasionally borders on cheesy (in Building a Business, entrepreneurs are said to “look forward to going to work each day”). While the math exercises and challenges are valuable, the directions sometimes call for students to complete the chart or table featured below—an obviously problematic element for libraries. A great selection for students looking for simple, real-world applications of math while strengthening their own skills.

Middle School

Dickmann, Nancy. Burning Out: Energy from Fossil Fuels. ISBN 9780778723721.

––––. Energy from Water: Hydroelectric, Tidal, and Wave Power. ISBN 9780778723806.

––––. Leaving Our Mark: Reducing Our Carbon Footprint. ISBN 9780778723813.

––––. Putting Earth First: Eating and Living Green. ISBN 9780778723820.

ea vol: 32p. (Next Generation Energy). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Crabtree. Feb. 2016. lib. ed. $27.60.

Gr 5 Up –An investigation of past and current energy usage in the United States and Canada, with nods to the future. The titles center on defining and exploring renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy, how these energies are produced, what they are used for, and their effect on the planet. Critical thinking prompts appear throughout and encourage students to reflect on past and possible energy consumption habits. Each volume ends with an activity that demonstrates a key lesson in the text. A “What Happened?” paragraph explains how the experiment functions as a microcosm of the larger issue. Visually, each entry is similar: small text set against a washed-out background image, with small but clear photos and sidebars. Vocabulary words appear in bold. Consider to get middle school students motivated about debates on energy consumption and climate change.

Wood, Alix. Uncovering the Culture of Ancient Britain. ISBN 9781508146490; ISBN 9781508146476; ISBN 9781508146506.

––––. Uncovering the Culture of Ancient Egypt. ISBN 9781508146537; ISBN 9781508146513; ISBN 9781508146544.

––––. Uncovering the Culture of Ancient Greece. ISBN 9781508146575; ISBN 9781508146551; ISBN 9781508146582.

––––. Uncovering the Culture of Ancient India. ISBN 9781508146612; ISBN 9781508146599; ISBN 9781508146629.

––––. Uncovering the Culture of Ancient Mesopotamia. ISBN 9781508146650; ISBN 9781508146636; ISBN 9781508146667.

––––. Uncovering the Culture of Ancient Peru. ISBN 9781508146698; ISBN 9781508146674; ISBN 9781508146704.

ea vol: 32p. (Archaeology and Ancient Cultures). chron. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. PowerKids. Jan. 2016. lib. ed. $26.25. pap. $10. ebk. $26.25.

Gr 5-8 –This series is formatted much like an archaeological dig; readers piece together information about the topic culture through the discovery of sites and artifacts. Each title chronologically follows the earliest human settlements and continues on until either the beginning of the Common Era (Egypt; Greece; Mesopotamia) or around the Middle Ages (Britain; India; Peru). The text occasionally prompts students to speculate on the implications of a specific finding (how does this particular artifact fit into the larger narrative of this ancient society?). In each volume, the page numbers are color-coded to match the time period being discussed, a simple but effective way to keep readers grounded. (In India, purple signals the Vedic period.) Students will gain insight into the many challenges and successes of archaeologists. Mesopotamia details the process of translating the cuneiform tablets of Nineveh by using other languages where the same text was repeated, The Epic of Gilgamesh being among these tablets. The format is pleasing, with a nice balance of text and images. Highly readable and informative, this celebration of ancient history and archaeology is recommended for collections that serve middle schoolers.

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