Indispensable Wisdom | History Series Nonfiction

These history titles seek to attract new readers with unique hooks, tantalizing subjects, and ­entertaining graphics.


Educators, librarians, and caretakers are currently grappling with how to teach history. This reckoning is reflected in many of these series. Children are being introduced to difficult topics at a younger age. Presidents are given more personality, with greater attention paid to their flaws and failures along with their achievements. American history is studied through a broader lens, and readers will be excited to see themselves reflected on the page. Here you will find titles that seek to attract new readers with unique hooks, tantalizing subjects, and ­entertaining graphics.



Daly, Ruth. Rosa Parks. ISBN 9781510553637.
––––. Thomas Edison. ISBN 9781510553781.
Das, Priyanka & Maria Koran. Abraham Lincoln. ISBN 9781510553750.
Erlic, Lily. Amelia Earhart. ISBN 9781510553729.
––––. Martin Luther King, Jr. ISBN 9781510553699.
Woodland, Faith. Harriet Tubman. ISBN 9781510553668.
ea vol: 24p. (Historical Figures). Smartbook Media/Lightbox. Aug. 2020. Tr. $22.99.
K-Gr 2 –This gentle introduction to well-known American figures presents ample opportunities to discuss difficult topics with young children. These titles provide access to Lightbox’s online content, which includes quizzes, slideshows, interactive maps, activities, and videos. The text uses large typeface and is limited to a few sentences per page. Back matter includes a time line and a diagram that explains what the historical figure did and the impact of their actions. Some of the language will be too advanced for young readers, and the concepts will need further explanation. Kids will ask: Why did African Americans have to sit in the back of the bus? Why is the police officer raising a baton to a young Black man? Why do these images mirror what we see on today’s news? VERDICT Parents and educators can use this series to teach young children about the injustices of racism and systemic oppression.



Abramson, Marcia. The Declaration of Independence. ISBN 9781647471200.
––––. Monuments and Memorials. ISBN 9781647471194.
Collison, Campbell. The 13 Original Colonies. ISBN 9781647471248.
––––. The Constitution. ISBN 9781647471224.
––––. The Presidents. ISBN 9781647471217.
––––. The White House. ISBN 9781647471231.
ea vol: 32p. (X-treme Facts: U.S. History). Bearport. Aug. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-6 –The majority of this series presents a simple regurgitation of well-known facts. However, the layout, which features minimal text with lots of images, framed text, and brights colors, may engage reluctant readers. There are some hits and misses with the more problematic parts of American history. The section covering Mount Rushmore in Monuments and Memorials could have noted the controversies surrounding its placement. The White House emphasizes Donald Trump’s Twitter habits: “President Donald Trump is a big fan of Twitter. He has sent out more than 100 tweets in a single day!” This is accompanied by a photo of a smiling child standing next to Trump. In a speech bubble, the child says, “Way to go with the tweets, Mr. President!” This ignores the derogatory nature of Trump’s tweets and how he uses his platform to spread misinformation. However, the series treats Native Americans with respect. Their individual names and tribes are identified, as well as their contributions to the colonies’ success. VERDICT If you are looking for something new, look elsewhere. However, the flashy layout could attract reluctant readers.

Amoroso, Cynthia. Ronald Reagan: Our 40th President. ISBN 9781503844315.
––––. William McKinley: Our 25th President. ISBN 9781503844162.
Brunelli, Carol. Chester A. Arthur: Our 21st President. ISBN 9781503844131.
––––. James A. Garfield: Our 20th President. ISBN 9781503844124.
––––. Woodrow Wilson: Our 28th President. ISBN 9781503844193.
––––. Zachary Taylor: Our 12th President. ISBN 9781503844049.
Burgan, Michael. George W. Bush: Our 43rd President. ISBN 9781503844346.
Ferry, Steven. Franklin Pierce: Our 14th President. ISBN 9781503844063.
––––. John Tyler: Our 10th President. ISBN 9781503844025.
––––. Martin Van Buren: Our 8th President. ISBN 9781503844001.
Francis, Sandra. Benjamin Harrison: Our 23rd President. ISBN 9781503844155.
––––. George H.W. Bush: Our 41st President. ISBN 9781503844322.
––––. Gerald R. Ford: Our 38th President. ISBN 9781503844292.
––––. Rutherford B. Hayes: Our 19th President. ISBN 9781503844117.
Gaines, Ann Graham. Andrew Jackson: Our 7th President. ISBN 9781503843998.
––––. George Washington: Our 1st President. ISBN 9781503843936.
––––. Grover Cleveland: Our 22nd and 24th President. ISBN 9781503844148.
––––. Harry S. Truman: Our 33rd President. ISBN 9781503844247.
––––. James Madison: Our 4th President. ISBN 9781503843967.
––––. James Monroe: Our 5th President. ISBN 9781503843974.
––––. James Polk: Our 11th President. ISBN 9781503844032.
––––. John Adams: Our 2nd President. ISBN 9781503843943.
––––. Richard M. Nixon: Our 37th President. ISBN 9781503844285.
––––. Theodore Roosevelt: Our 26th President. ISBN 9781503844179.
––––. Ulysses S. Grant: Our 18th President. ISBN 9781503844100.
––––. William Clinton: Our 42nd President. ISBN 9781503844339.
––––. William Henry Harrison: Our 9th President. ISBN 9781503844018.
Hansen, Sarah. Abraham Lincoln: Our 16th President. ISBN 9781503844087.
––––. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Our 34th President. ISBN 9781503844254.
Harper, Judith E. Andrew Johnson: Our 17th President. ISBN 9781503844094.
––––. John F. Kennedy: Our 35th President. ISBN 9781503844261.
Hobkirk, Lori. James Earl Carter: Our 39th President. ISBN 9781503844308.
Maupin, Melissa. Calvin Coolidge: Our 30th President. ISBN 9781503844216.
––––. Franklin D. Roosevelt: Our 32nd President. ISBN 9781503844230.
––––. Lyndon Baines Johnson: Our 36th President. ISBN 9781503844278.
––––. William Howard Taft: Our 27th President. ISBN 9781503844186.
Nichols, Catherine. Barack Obama: Our 44th President. ISBN 9781503844353.
Rodriguez, Ann Gaines. Donald Trump: Our 45th President. ISBN 9781503844360.
Sirimarco, Elizabeth. Thomas Jefferson: Our 3rd President. ISBN 9781503843950.
Souter, Gerry. Herbert Hoover: Our 31st President. ISBN 9781503844223.
––––. James Buchanan: Our 15th President. ISBN 9781503844070.
––––. John Quincy Adams: Our 6th President. ISBN 9781503843981.
––––. Millard Fillmore: Our 13th President. ISBN 9781503844056.
––––. Warren G. Harding: Our 29th President. ISBN 9781503844209.
ea vol: 48p. (The United States Presidents). The Child’s World. Aug. 2020. Tr. $35.64.
Gr 3-6 –Young readers learn about each president’s childhood, their introduction to politics, and time in office. Significant world events that occurred during the president’s tenure are highlighted in boldface to facilitate comprehension and provide historical context. Each title includes a time line, information on the branches of government and the election process, and a glossary. The role of the First Lady is discussed, featuring a page dedicated to her biography and official work. Fun anecdotes are included to humanize the presidents. For example, when Ronald Reagan worked as a lifeguard, he once rescued a set of false teeth. Above all, this series does not glorify the presidents. Their flaws and failures are mentioned as well as their successes. Andrew Jackson was known as the “people’s president,” but he was also a racist who terrorized Native Americans. Thomas Jefferson publicly disavowed slavery, but he enslaved Black people and directly profited from the institution of slavery. VERDICT The United States presidents get a fresh treatment in this fair and informative biography series. Readers will understand that no human is perfect, including the presidents.

Castrovilla, Selene. The Founding Mothers of the United States. ISBN 9780531130797.
Chin-Lee, Cynthia. Women and the Right to Vote. ISBN 9780531130834.
Dumas, Marti. Women in the Old West. ISBN 9780531130803.
Grant, Kesha. Women in the Civil Rights ­Movement. ISBN 9780531130827.
Taylor, Susan. Women in World War Two. ISBN 9780531130810.
ea vol: 48p. (A True Book: Women’s History in the U.S.). Scholastic/Children’s Pr. Sept. 2020. Tr. $31.
Gr 3-5 –These titles examine women’s contributions to American history. Readers learn about Phillis Wheatley, who was the first Black female published poet in America, and Martha Washington, who visited army encampments to tend to the sick and host foreign dignitaries. The important roles women have played throughout America’s development as a country are clearly explained, but the text doesn’t try to sugarcoat history. Imprisoned suffragists were beaten, put into solitary confinement, and force-fed when they engaged in a hunger strike. Women and the Right to Vote also reveals the racism within the suffrage movement. Back matter includes a time line, statistics, a glossary, and further reading. This series spotlights women’s history and celebrates women’s accomplishments, but it does not present a sanitized version of events. VERDICT This riveting series is sure to engage the imaginations of budding historians and revolutionaries.

Kaminski, Leah. The Dragon and the Iron Factory. ISBN 9781534169401.
––––. The Fairy and the Broken Enchantment. ISBN 9781534169388.
––––. The Lost Unicorn. ISBN 9781534169425.
––––. Zombies Rest in Peace. ISBN 9781534169449.
Tremaine, Kate. The Poltergeist’s Haunting. ISBN 9781534169456.
––––. The Stolen Kraken. ISBN 9781534169418.
––––. The Vampire and the Lost Locket. ISBN 9781534169395.
––––. The Werewolf’s Curse. ISBN 9781534169432.
ea vol: illus. by Jared Sams. 32p. (The Secret Society of Monster Hunters). Cherry Lake/Torch Graphic. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 4-8 –This graphic novel series features a spunky group of children who use their uncle’s time machine to locate supernatural creatures and keep them hidden from the public. In each book, the friends travel to a different decade in the 20th century to seek out a creature, including a Kraken in 1950s Boston, a poltergeist in 1990s Seattle, and a fairy in 1920s Harlem. A packing list of essential items, such as clothes and accessories to wear to fit in, is included. There is also information that explains important events and pop culture. Information boxes and vocabulary are scattered throughout the pages; each title includes a related activity. The pages are filled with bold, bright colors and feature a diverse cast of characters. However, the narratives sometimes jump forward as if panels are missing, and the historical information is on the lighter side. VERDICT While not a comprehensive study, this is the perfect series for kids who claim to hate history. Readers will learn fascinating facts without realizing it.

Loh-Hagan, Virginia. Alcatraz. ISBN 9781534169111.
––––. American Colonies. ISBN 9781534169128.
––––. Ancient Egypt. ISBN 9781534169074.
––––. Ancient Rome. ISBN 9781534169081.
––––. The French Revolution. ISBN 9781534169135.
––––. Maya Empire. ISBN 9781534169104.
––––. Mongol Empire. ISBN 9781534169098.
––––. The Titanic. ISBN 9781534169067.
ea vol: 32p. (Surviving History). Cherry Lake/45th Parallel. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 4-6 –Readers of this hi-lo series will learn about significant historical moments. A survival quiz tests their ability to survive the dangers of the time period. While the books showcase a gritty style that implies darker content, the text offers standard information. Interspersed throughout the chapters are survivor’s tips, tools, and biographies. The survivor quiz, which is essentially a personality quiz, offers unsurprising results. Following the quiz, the text provides information that would have made the questions more meaningful if presented earlier in the narrative. Back matter includes a glossary, additional resources, and an index. VERDICT While the series doesn’t quite deliver on its promises, it might fill a void on a hi-lo shelf.


Burgan, Michael. First in Flight. ISBN 9780756566135.
Smith-Llera, Danielle. First Look at a Black Hole. ISBN 9780756566142.
ea vol: 64p. (Captured History). Capstone/Compass Point. Aug. 2020. Tr. $35.32.
Gr 5-9 –This unique series discusses two familiar topics through a new lens. The books provide standard information and focus on photography. The Wright Brothers’ early lives and tireless engineering experiments are showcased, and the history of human flight is traced back to the ancient Greeks. Readers will also learn the name of the photographer who captured the historic flight, the type of camera used, and the importance of photographic evidence. Photography gets more technical when the subject is 53 million light-years away. And so does the language. While First Look at a Black Hole details the nature of a black hole and explains what we know about this space element, a lot of the text examines how radio telescopes work. Readers will marvel at the global cooperation, time, and sheer luck required to make the photo work. VERDICT Young readers could have difficulty digesting this series because of the technical terminology and the amount of information. Casual readers may opt for something lighter. However, kids interested in the subjects will learn something new.

“The Secret Society of Monster Hunters” (Cherry Lake/Torch Graphic) tracks supernatural creatures through time. “X-treme Facts: U.S. History” (Bearport) and “Surviving History” (Cherry Lake/45th Parallel) encourage readers to test their survival skills during some of history’s most dangerous periods. “Captured History” (Capstone/Compass Point) raises awareness of the importance of historical photos and provides a unique take on two important achievements. “The United States Presidents” (The Child’s World), “Historical Figures” (Smartbook Media/Lightbox), and “Women’s History in the U.S.” (Scholastic/Children’s Pr.) take a significant step in delivering a more diverse view of American history. Children are rewarded with enjoyable learning experiences.

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