Games and Gears and Gigs, Oh My! | Tech & Machines Series Nonfiction

Close your eyes and think of the word “technology.” Where does your mind take you? Whatever you dwell on, you can’t deny that tech and machines have made our lives very different than those of our ancestors. Let us make your life easy by breaking down the best in show for this season’s publications.

 

Close your eyes and think of the word “technology.” Where does your mind take you? Maybe to a farm or construction site, where massive machines have made the jobs of farmers and workers less manual and much speedier. Speaking of speed, maybe your imagination carries you along a road in one of the world’s fastest cars, built to blast through curves and straightaways with ease. Or perhaps you think fondly of the video game systems of your childhood…and how amazing the graphics and gameplay are for kids today! Whatever you dwell on, you can’t deny that tech and machines have made our lives very different than those of our ancestors. Let us make your life easy by breaking down the best in show for this season’s publications.

 

Elementary

Borgert-Spaniol, Megan. Chevrolet Corvette. ISBN 9781532193248.
Olson, Elsie. Dodge Charger. ISBN 9781532193262.
––––. Ford Mustang. ISBN 9781532193279.
Rusick, Jessica. Chevrolet Camaro. ISBN 9781532193231.
Thomas, Rachael L. Dodge Challenger. ISBN 9781532193255.
Wilken, Scott. Pontiac Trans Am. ISBN 9781532193286.
ea vol: 32p. (Mighty Muscle Cars). ABDO/Big Buddy. Dec. 2020. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 2-4 –Gearheads will gravitate toward this aesthetically appealing, well-written series. Aside from just learning more about the provenance of each iconic muscle car, readers will get interesting facts from their history. For instance, Chevrolet, one of America’s first big automobile companies, transitioned to making supplies for the U.S. military during World War II and its Corvette was named after a small warship. The Dodge Charger was such an unbeatable car that NASCAR banned it from racing in 1971. With the invention of the Mustang, Ford created a whole new class of automobiles: pony cars. Many of the vehicles have been used often in pop culture, mostly in movies and TV shows like Transformers and the Fast and Furious franchise. “Fast Facts,” “Car Engines 101,” and time line sections give browsers a quick overview of the contents. VERDICT A great first purchase for most libraries.

Gregory, Josh. Battling in Pokémon GO. ISBN 9781534183353.
––––. Collecting and Trading in Pokémon GO. ISBN 9781534183360.
––––. How Pokémon GO Was Made. ISBN 9781534183346.
––––. Playing Pokémon GO. ISBN 9781534183339.ea vol: 24p. (21st Century Skills Innovation Library: Unofficial Guides Junior). Cherry Lake. Jan. 2021. Tr. $28.50.

Gr 2-4 –Young readers who are interested in playing Pokémon GO will learn a lot in these slim volumes. Playing Pokémon GO will give new players a good introductory view of gameplay, including setting up their trainer, picking their starter Pokémon, and catching new Pokémon in the game. Battling is introduced there, but more strategies for the arena are introduced in Battling in Pokémon GO, including which strengths to choose when you’re battling and how to control the action in a match. Collecting and Trading in Pokémon GO explains how rare some Pokémon are. Kids interested in the back end of gaming will appreciate the development factoids in How Pokémon GO Was Made the most. The writing style is conversational and easy to follow, sure to keep readers’ attention, especially if they are interested in learning how to become a more skilled Pokémon trainer. VERDICT A first-rate purchase wherever Pokémon GO enthusiasts roam.

Holmes, Kirsty. Balers. ISBN 9781647475420.
––––. Combines. ISBN 9781647475437.
––––. Planters. ISBN 9781647475451.
––––. Plows. ISBN 9781647475444.
––––. Spreaders. ISBN 9781647475468.
––––. Tractors. ISBN 9781647475475.
ea vol: 24p. (Farmer Llama’s Farm Machines). Bearport/Fusion. Jan. 2021. Tr. $26.99.
K-Gr 2 –Information about big farm machines is wrapped into a very cute package as readers (and pre-reading listeners) are led around Farmer Llama’s land, learning all about the massive vehicles, how they work, and how they help farmers do their jobs more efficiently. Readers will learn how farmers accomplished the jobs that machines do before they were invented, like how the baler took over for farmers who had been cutting grass with a scythe and creating haystacks manually. Different parts of each machine are labeled and their jobs are described. The cheerful illustrations are labeled and many of those terms are defined in the glossary at the end of the book. Careful readers can take Farmer Llama’s quiz to get their llama-diplomas—they could even download their diploma from a link provided at the back of the book. VERDICT Farm-loving kiddos will adore these. First purchases all around.

Johnson, Amy. Diggers. illus. by Kirsten Collier. ISBN 9781499485714.
––––. Rescue Vehicles. illus. by Steven Wood. ISBN 9781499485752.
––––. Tractors. illus. by Ela Smietanka. ISBN 9781499485790.
––––. Trucks. illus. by Craig Shuttlewood. ISBN 9781499485837.
ea vol: 24p. (Busy Machines). Rosen/Windmill. Jan. 2021. Tr. $24.60.
PreS-Gr 1 –Adorable, smiling big machines invite kids to learn more about construction, rescue, and farm vehicles, as well as some seriously big trucks. Labeled illustrations highlight important aspects of each big machine and the playful language is engaging and exciting, just begging to be read aloud. These books fall into a gray area between fiction and nonfiction known as “informational fiction”—they contain researched, factual information about a topic, but also have some fictional elements (think along the lines of Joanna Cole’s “The Magic School Bus” franchise). Those fictional elements in this case are embodied by faces and quotes attributed to the machines, which are fun for kids to imagine, but not the best idea to group in with nonfiction in a time when librarians are fighting on the forefronts of fake news. VERDICT They’re cute books that will see a lot of circulation, but few would classify them among nonfiction titles.

Lewis, Katherine. We Love Electric Cars. ISBN 9781728419251.
––––. We Love Pickup Trucks. ISBN 9781728419282.
––––. We Love Race Cars. ISBN 9781728419275.
––––. We Love Sports Cars. ISBN 9781728419268.
ea vol: 24p. (Bumba Books: We Love Cars and Trucks). Lerner. Jan. 2021. Tr. $26.65.
PreS-Gr 1 –This new addition to the popular Bumba Books brand reminds readers (and pre-reading listeners) what’s so great about these different kinds of vehicles. Electric cars keep our air cleaner and are better for the environment. Pickup trucks haul and tow various things, speeding across the pages. Race cars and sports cars have speedy, sleek designs that help them cruise. Some pages include little question bubbles that ask readers to explore what they’ve learned so far. Labeled diagrams at the end of each book point out significant parts of each automobile. Charming illustrations add spunkiness to the colorful pages. The simple, succinct writing style makes these useful for emerging readers as well as informative books for story times. VERDICT Fine additional purchases that will fit in emerging reader or picture book nonfiction collections.

Nelson, Robin. The Story of a Baseball Bat: It Starts with Wood. ISBN 9781541597716.
––––. The Story of a Crayon: It Starts with Wax. ISBN 9781541597723.
––––. The Story of Chocolate: It Starts with ­Cocoa Beans. ISBN 9781541597273.
––––. The Story of Corn: It Starts with a Seed. ISBN 9781541597747.
––––. The Story of Honey: It Starts with a Flower. ISBN 9781541597730.
––––. The Story of Peanut Butter: It Starts with Peanuts. ISBN 9781541597297.
Owings, Lisa. The Story of Salt: It Starts with the Sea. ISBN 9781541597259.
Taus-Bolstad, Stacy. The Story of an Apple: It Starts with a Seed. ISBN 9781541597754.
––––. The Story of Ice Cream: It Starts with Milk. ISBN 9781541597266.
––––. The Story of Milk: It Starts with Grass. ISBN 9781541597280.
Zemlicka, Shannon. The Story of a Butterfly: It Starts with a Caterpillar. ISBN 9781541597709.
––––. The Story of a Frog: It Starts with a ­Tadpole. ISBN 9781541597242.
ea vol: 24p. (Step by Step). Lerner. Jan. 2021. Tr. $26.65.
PreS-Gr 1 –Each book in this illuminating series guides readers slowly and methodically through the process something takes to get to its final form. Colorful photos illustrate the steps and are filled with fine details. From foods (chocolate, corn, honey, peanut butter, apples, salt, ice cream, and milk) to playful products (baseball bats and crayons) to creatures (butterflies and frogs), readers will gain an intimate knowledge of the world around them. The easy reader format includes one-to-three lines of text per spread, which gives readers plenty of time to use picture clues to decode unfamiliar words and pore over the interesting photos that show the steps along the journey. The selected photos show diverse groups of people who have a hand in bringing these common items into our lives. VERDICT For story times, caregivers, and emerging ­readers, this series is an exciting look at everyday ­miracles. A first purchase.

Peterson, Megan Cooley. Acura NSX. ISBN 9781623102524.
––––. Audi R8. ISBN 9781623102548.
––––. BMW i8. ISBN 9781623102555.
––––. DBS Superleggera. ISBN 9781623102531.
––––. Maserati GranTurismo. ISBN 9781623102562.
––––. Mercedes AMG GT R. ISBN 9781623102579.
ea vol: 32p. (Epic Cars). Black Rabbit/Bolt. Jan. 2021. Tr. $32.80.
Gr 2-4 –Readers will be eager to get a glimpse of epic cars they may never get a chance to see in real life. The sleek design and light, yet powerful engine give the Acura NSX a race car like feel. The Audi R8 has a carbon fiber body that is ultralightweight and a rad clear cover over the engine. The BMW I8 has “scissor doors” that swing upward to open and a battery-powered electric motor. Not only can the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera race at incredible speeds, it also boasts carbon ceramic brakes that stop the car quickly without overheating. The price points of many of these cars are so high that buyers can customize them in various ways—GranTurismo buyers can even pick their own interior upholstery stitching color. Infographic-style sections break up the text, providing easy visuals that break down the important details of these powerful cars. VERDICT ­Exciting and engaging first purchases.

Rathburn, Betsy. Arcade Gaming. ISBN 9781644874547.
––––. Computer Gaming. ISBN 9781644874554.
––––. Console Gaming. ISBN 9781644874561.
––––. Handheld Gaming. ISBN 9781644874578.
––––. Online Gaming. ISBN 9781644874585.
––––. Virtual Reality Gaming. ISBN 9781644874592.
ea vol: 24p. (Ready, Set, Game!). Bellwether/Torque. Jan. 2021. Tr. $25.95.
Gr 2-4 –Filled with history and fun facts about the development of modern gaming systems, these books are sure to rope in some eager readers. Kids will gasp at how far arcade games have come when they find out early arcade games were mechanical, engineering marvels designed to be played without electricity. The first computers weren’t powerful enough to run games like Minecraft, but as microprocessors developed and graphics cards advanced, amazing games became the norm. Perhaps the biggest difference in tech lies in Handheld Gaming, where the Nintendo Switch stacks up against Mattel’s Auto Race and leaves it in its dust. Each book includes a ­section about gaming communities, including tournaments and social groups that readers could join. Infographic-style information delivery breaks up the text, making these books very browser friendly. The writing is informative and engaging, sure to get kids to realize how good they have it! VERDICT An exciting series for gaming enthusiasts.

Rossiter, Brienna. Big Machines for Fire and Rescue. ISBN 9781644936696.
––––. Big Machines in Space. ISBN 9781644936702.
––––. Big Machines in the Air. ISBN 9781644936719.
––––. Big Machines in the City. ISBN 9781644936726.
––––. Big Machines in the Military. ISBN 9781644936733.
––––. Big Machines on the Farm. ISBN 9781644936740.
––––. Big Machines on the Water. ISBN 9781644936757.
––––. Big Machines That Build. ISBN 9781644936764.
ea vol: 16p. (Big Machines). North Star Editions/Focus Readers. Jan. 2021. Tr. $24.20.
PreS-Gr 1 –These introductory books for emerging readers are all about the big machines kids find so fascinating. Big Machines for Fire and Rescue includes the popular fire trucks as well as ambulances and even helicopters for air rescue. While Big Machines in Space features the classic rocket and space station, it skips satellites, talking about telescopes instead. Big Machines in the Air includes a look inside the cargo hold of a jet. Big Machines in the City features trucks, buses, and trains. Big Machines That Build includes fan favorites the bulldozer, dump truck, and crane. With labeled pictures and frequent word repetition, they’re excellent for those who are just starting to develop their reading skills. The photos complement the text to help young readers decode unusual words. VERDICT A good additional purchase if your easy reader books on these topics are getting a little crusty.

 

Upper Elementary to Middle School

Lowe, Alexander. Fortnite. ISBN 9781684508532.
––––. Lego. ISBN 9781684508525.
––––. Minecraft. ISBN 9781684508518.
––––. Pokémon Go! ISBN 9781684508501.
ea vol: 48p. (A Great Game!). Norwood House. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.27.
Gr 4-6 –Readers will be eager to learn the backstory of their favorite games (and one toy!) in this informative series. It took Epic Games six years to develop Fortnite and less than two years for it to become the most popular game in the world. LEGO was first made in 1949 and is still one of the most recognizable brands around, spawning films, theme parks, and video games. Ignoring the one time line error in Minecraft, fans will love to learn about the evolution of the successful video game. “Did You Know?” fast facts sections will fascinate with tidbits such as: playing Fortnite and performing surgery use the same part of a person’s brain; there are more LEGO bricks on Earth than people; and players can now catch 640 unique Pokémon. Each game has community events, like tournaments and conventions, that keep them popular. ­VERDICT Lots of information and solid writing make this series a worthy purchase.



There are so many standouts in this crowd! For librarians looking to update their car and big machine books, look no further than ABDO/Big Buddy’s “Mighty Muscle Cars,” Black Rabbit/Bolt’s “Epic Cars,” and even Bearport/Fusion’s “Farmer Llama’s Farm Machines” (though this falls into that informational book gray area we mentioned previously). For the gamers in your library, Cherry Lake’s “21st Century Skills Innovation Library: Unofficial Guides Junior,” Bellwether/Torque’s “Ready, Set, Game!” and Norwood House’s “A Great Game!” make excellent, exciting new offerings. Sift through those additional purchases to backfill where needed and let the road (real or virtual!) take you where it leads you!

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