Technically Speaking: Technology & Machines Series Nonfiction

With new tech being rolled out at an exponentially faster pace year after year, replacing old volumes can be hard to justify. Libraries eager to meet their patrons’ needs will see the value in weeding and supplementing their tech collections on a more consistent basis. The series we’ve selected for this section include cutting-edge inventions, machines both simple and amazingly complex, future-minded creations, and coding prep for the youngest readers.

In the face of ever-evolving tech, it can be a chore to keep your collection up-to-date. That book about Vine? Obsolete. Nonfiction titles featuring kids typing on bulky desktop computers? Antiques. With new tech being rolled out at an exponentially faster pace year after year (and budgets staying flat or shrinking), replacing old volumes can be hard to justify. But as with most things, libraries eager to meet their patrons’ needs will see the value in weeding and supplementing their tech collections on a more consistent basis. The series we’ve selected for this section include cutting-edge inventions like VR, machines both simple and amazingly complex, future-minded creations like cryptocurrency, and fun, functional coding prep for the youngest readers. Some set the tone for excellence in the field, while others miss the mark.

 

ELEMENTARY

Adams, William D. Robot Basics. ISBN 9780716641292.
––––. Robots at Work. ISBN 9780716641339.
––––. Robots in Action. ISBN 9780716641353.
––––. Robots on the Move. ISBN 9780716641322.
––––. Robots Thinking and Learning. ISBN 9780716641315.
De La Rosa, Jeff. Robots and People. ISBN 9780716641377.
––––. Robots at Play. ISBN 9780716641346.
––––. Robots Helping Out. ISBN 9780716641360.
––––. Robots Sensing and Doing. ISBN 9780716641308.
––––. Weird Robots. ISBN 9780716641384.
ea vol: 48p. (Robots). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. World Book. Jun. 2019. Tr. $199.00.
Gr 3-5 –With limited overlap between volumes, this flashy series is packed with tons of fascinating facts. Robots at Work, Robots in Action, and Robots Helping Out introduce bots that have been built to handle some of the repetitive, dull, and dangerous tasks once relegated to humans, including assisting the military, performing search and rescue tasks, and even handling dangerous chemicals on farms. Some robots, covered in Robots at Play and Weird Robots, are made more for learning and enjoyment, like Cozmo, which teaches kids how to code. All readers can benefit from Robot Basics, which explains programming and varying levels of autonomy, power sources, and interfaces for human interaction. The highly visual guides have a strong balance of photos and text with an appropriate amount of blank space on the pages. Well-known robots are introduced and their specs are included. VERDICT An excellent, readable series to include in every collection.

Allan, John. Let’s Look at Diggers and Dumpers. ISBN 9781541555334.
––––. Let’s Look at Emergency Vehicles. ISBN 9781541555358.
––––. Let’s Look at Monster Machines. ISBN 9781541555310.
––––. Let’s Look at Trucks and Tractors. ISBN 9781541555297.
ea vol: 24p. (Mini Mechanics). glossary. photos. Lerner/Hungry Tomato. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.99.
Gr 1-3 –An imaginary team of “mini mechanics” walks readers through the general makeup of different machines. Each book begins with the mini mechanics discussing some of the tools they would need to repair each vehicle. Photos of real machines against illustrated backgrounds have a whimsical feel, while the accompanying information labels different pertinent parts of the trucks, tractors, boats, and other big machines. Perennial favorites are covered, like fire trucks in Emergency Vehicles and monster trucks in Monster Machines. The concept of the mini mechanics could have easily been expanded to take peeks inside the vehicles, which means these books don’t offer much extra to make them stand out. VERDICT They’ll get checked out because they’re about popular subject matter, but they’ll be supplemental purchases for most libraries with plenty of “things that go” books on their shelves.

Conley, Kate. Cryptocurrency. ISBN 9781684509188.
Huddleston, Emma. Online Search. ISBN 9781684509171.
Marquardt, Meg. Solar Energy. ISBN 9781684509164.
Smibert, Angie. Reusable Rockets. ISBN 9781684509195.
ea vol: 48p. (Tech Bytes). bibliog. glossary. index. photos. websites. Norwood House. Jul. 2019. Tr. $26.60.
Gr 4-6 –A lot of information is stuffed into these compact packages. The history of Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer currency, and its fluctuating value is discussed thoroughly in Cryptocurrency, including the issues inherent in the decentralized format, like theft through hacking, loss of hard drives, keys, or passwords, and its connection to the dark web and crime. Online Search describes the history of the web and the evolution of computers, as well as privacy concerns and next-gen search features. Solar Energy explores how we can harness that renewable resource. The history of space travel in Reusable Rockets goes from Sputnik to SpaceX, which finally allows humans to send a rocket to space and back. The informative writing is not particularly exciting but will impart a ton of information. VERDICT Suitable for research but not great for browsers. An additional purchase.

Holmes, Kristy. Code Confusion! ISBN 9780778763284; ISBN 9780778763383.
––––. Debugging Disaster! ISBN 9780778763291; ISBN 9780778763390.
––––. Hack Attack! ISBN 9780778763307; ISBN 9780778763406.
––––. Loopy Logic! ISBN 9780778763352; ISBN 9780778763413.
––––. Memory Madness! ISBN 9780778763369; ISBN 9780778763420.
––––. Perfect Program! ISBN 9780778763376; ISBN 9780778763437.
ea vol: 24p. (Code Academy). glossary. index. Crabtree. Jul. 2019. Tr. $23.60. pap. $7.95.
Gr 1-4 –A fact-meets-fiction series that introduces readers to a fictional classroom of kids learning about coding through a robotic classmate, Ro Bud. Each volume has a simple, well-defined focus. Code Confusion! teaches readers that robots only understand binary language. Debugging Disaster! has the class fixing an error in Ro Bud’s programming. The class has to clean Ro Bud’s programming after it gets a virus in Hack Attack! All the stories are easy to follow and encourage readers to think through the problem along with the children in the books. While Ro Bud is illustrated, the children and teacher are stock photos whose characters have their own distinct personalities. VERDICT Useful books appropriate for most collections. Educators will value these for read-alouds before introducing coding concepts in classroom and storytime settings.

Mattern, Joanne. Inclined Planes. ISBN 9781626179912.
––––. Levers. ISBN 9781626179929.
––––. Pulleys. ISBN 9781626179936.
––––. Screws. ISBN 9781626179943.
––––. Wedges. ISBN 9781626179950.
––––. Wheels and Axles. ISBN 9781626179967.
ea vol: 24p. (Simple Machines Fun!). chart. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bellwether. Aug. 2019. Tr. $25.95.

K-Gr 3 –These titles describe simple machines to new readers who are eager to learn how they make life easier. Some of the machines are more basic than others, like wedges, levers, and inclined planes. Others, like pulleys, screws, and wheels and axles, require a little more engineering. Pulleys tells readers how rope, wheel, and axle can combine to lift a heavy load with less force and how adding more pulleys (creating a compound pulley) can reduce the effort even further. Bright colors and large text, complemented with illustrative photographs, make these books wonderfully educational. The history of simple machines is discussed in each volume. Perhaps the best part is that each book includes several experiment suggestions, teaching readers how to make a pulley, an Archimedes screw, and more with household objects. VERDICT Fun, educational choices for every collection.

Preuitt, Sheela. Mission HTML. ISBN 9781541555914.
––––. Mission JavaScript. ISBN 9781541555907.
––––. Mission Python. ISBN 9781541555938.
––––. Mission Ruby. ISBN 9781541555921.
ea vol: 32p. (Mission: Code (Alternator Books)). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. Aug. 2019. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 3-6 –Each book explores the history of the programming language and its application in common websites. A Mission: Code It! link at the beginning asks readers to download an activity pack from a Lerner site. Mission HTML explains what hypertext markup language looks like while walking kids through modifying the provided files and learning a little about CSS (cascading style sheets). Ruby and Python are both powerful coding languages that are fairly simple to learn, with Mission Ruby showing readers how Ruby includes a function for reversing text that leads to them building a palindrome checker. The Mission JavaScript project has readers build a fun “guess my number” game. With simple, clean layouts and easy-to-follow directions, these books encourage kids to try new things and never give up. VERDICT First purchases for most libraries. Readers looking for hands-on learning with coding will appreciate these beginner volumes.

Ringstad, Arnold. What’s Inside a Clock? ISBN 9781503832077.
––––. What’s Inside a Computer Mouse? ISBN 9781503832091.
––––. What’s Inside a Digital Camera? ISBN 9781503832381.
––––. What’s Inside a Drone? ISBN 9781503832374.
––––. What’s Inside a DVD Player? ISBN 9781503832046.
––––. What’s Inside a Keyboard? ISBN 9781503832060.
––––. What’s Inside a Radio? ISBN 9781503832039.
––––. What’s Inside a Remote Control? ISBN 9781503832350.
––––. What’s Inside a Remote-Controlled Car? ISBN 9781503832053.
––––. What’s Inside a Toaster? ISBN 9781503832084.
––––. What’s Inside a VCR? ISBN 9781503832107.
––––. What’s Inside Headphones? ISBN 9781503832367.
ea vol: 24p. (Take It Apart). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. The Child’s World. Aug. 2019. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 2-5 –This series encourages kids to safely take apart tech to see what makes it tick. Each volume includes some safety guidelines as well as a list of materials needed to complete the suggested project. Diagrams label the different pieces as the destruction progresses. Simple descriptions of how the individual pieces work together to make the object work, like the gears and crystals in a clock, are helpful. After the take-apart process, the author offers suggestions for ways to reuse the disassembled parts, like turning the empty shell of a computer mouse into a piggy bank. Recommendations for disposal of the un-reused pieces would have been welcomed, as not all bits can be recycled and none should make their way to a landfill. VERDICT Less useful as instructional guides than as books full of experiments, but still a good idea. An additional purchase.

 

MIDDLE TO HIGH SCHOOL

Brezina, Corona. Artificial Intelligence and You. ISBN 9781508188193; ISBN 9781508188186.
Freedman, Jeri. Privacy, Data Harvesting, and You. ISBN 9781508188315; ISBN 9781508188308.
Gordon, Sherri Mabry. Internet Security and You. ISBN 9781508188285; ISBN 9781508188278.
Hand, Carol. Filter Bubbles and You. ISBN 9781508188254; ISBN 9781508188247.
Lew, Kristi. Cybercrime and You. ISBN 9781508188223; ISBN 9781508188216.
Mapua, Jeff. Virtual Reality and You. ISBN 9781508188377; ISBN 9781508188360.
Porterfield, Jason. Robots, Jobs, and You. ISBN 9781508188346; ISBN 9781508188339.
ea vol: 64p. (Promise and Perils of Technology). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen/Rosen Young Adult. Aug. 2019. Tr. $34.95. pap. $12.95.
Gr 7 Up –Researchers will learn the ups and downs of technology in this highly informative series. Highlights in the series include Filter Bubbles and You, which describes the problems that arise when Internet users take in only the information they agree with. Cybercrime and You covers not only phishing, catfishing, the dark web, piracy, hackers, viruses, malware, and ransomware, but also cyberbullying, trolls, and cyberpredators. Artificial Intelligence and You uncovers the benefits and drawbacks of AI, though it may make readers slightly suspicious of their always-on microphone devices and gadgets like Alexa and Siri. Privacy, Data Harvesting, and You and Internet Security and You show how browsers have become smarter and better at suggesting content, but at a cost of diminished privacy. VERDICT A great first purchase if your collection is lacking on these topics. Highly informative books that are on the cutting edge of technology.

Burling, Alexis. They’re Watching You: Personal Privacy on Social Media. ISBN 9781978507784; ISBN 9781978507777.
––––. What You Post Lasts Forever: Managing Your Social Media Presence. ISBN 9781978507838; ISBN 9781978507937.
Hurt, Avery Elizabeth. You Are the Product: How Your Data Is Being Sold. ISBN 9781978507814; ISBN 9781978507807.
Morris, Taylor. You’re Addicted to Your Phone: How to Break the Habit. ISBN 9781978507722; ISBN 9781978507715.
Peters, Jennifer. You’re Being Duped: Fake News on Social Media. ISBN 9781978507753; ISBN 9781978507746.
ea vol: 48p. (Social Media Smarts). further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Enslow. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.93. pap. $11.70.
Gr 5-8 –Well-meaning books encourage readers to be smarter about their social media usage. What You Post Lasts Forever describes the unintended consequences of speaking your mind and being completely open online, like how people can use old posts against you to damage your present and future opportunities. Cyberbullies and Trolls includes practical advice for responding to negative feedback on social media and thankfully reinforces that bullying is never the fault of the bullied person. You’re Addicted to Your Phone suggests realistic ways to reduce smartphone usage. These books have plenty of useful advice, but a major drawback is the inclusion of way too much slang. Rather than being conversational, it comes off as cringey. Frequent references to beauty products and readers as “Miss” unnecessarily genders the books. VERDICT Unfortunately, the language makes this series not ideal for purchase.

Chuirazzi, Sara. Using VR in ­Engineering. ISBN 9781502645647; ISBN 9781502645630.
Freedman, Jerri. Using VR in the ­Military. ISBN 9781502645739; ISBN 9781502645722.
Small, Cathleen. Using VR in Gaming. ISBN 9781502645678; ISBN 9781502645661.
––––. Using VR in Medicine. ISBN 9781502645708; ISBN 9781502645692.
ea vol: 80p. (VR on the Job). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. Cavendish Square. Aug. 2019. Tr. $35.64. pap. $17.64.
Gr 7 Up –Readers get up close and personal with virtual reality in these useful books. Using VR in Engineering includes information about the roots of VR, the difference between virtual and augmented reality, and how computer-aided engineering is changing manufacturing by allowing companies to create 3-D spaces to test products. Using VR in the Military shows how the military has embraced VR in training soldiers and flying drones, and how smart contact lenses can enhance soldiers’ readiness on the battlefield. Using VR in Medicine shares how VR can be used to treat people with PTSD and depression, as well as how VR and AR can help doctors learn on digital patients. Each book includes possible career paths, as well as coursework and internships that would make those careers accessible. The future of VR in each field is examined. VERDICT Well-researched books that in turn make great research materials for report writers.

Gitlin, Martin. 3D Printing. ISBN 9781534147621.
––––. Movies and Music. ISBN 9781534147560.
––––. Online News. ISBN 9781534147577.
––––. Smartphones. ISBN 9781534147607.
––––. Virtual Learning. ISBN 9781534147591.
LaCamera, Breanne. E-Commerce. ISBN 9781534147553.
Sonnad, Haydn. Self-Driving Cars. ISBN 9781534147614.
Todaro, Joseph. Blockchain. ISBN 9781534147584.
ea vol: 32p. (Disruptors in Tech). chron. further reading. glossary. index. Cherry Lake. Aug. 2019. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 4-8 –Covering the history of each invention’s predecessors, the various titles show how the hard work of innovative thinkers revolutionized people’s lives. 3D Printing details the introduction of 3-D printing, how costs have dropped, and opportunities for growth in both the public and private sectors. Readers might not be surprised at how streaming has impacted the music and movie industries, how e-commerce and e-learning have exploded, or how smartphones are considered the most popular advancement in technology, but they may be less familiar with the rise of cryptocurrency detailed in Blockchain. Educators will also appreciate Online News and its focus on biased vs. unbiased news sources. The text is fairly clinical but very well written and will provide excellent research fodder. VERDICT Focusing on tech that has shaken up the norm, this informative series will be essential for report writers. First purchases for school and public libraries.

Mauleón, Daniel. Esports Revolution. ISBN 9781543571554.
––––. Paid to Game. ISBN 9781543571578.
––––. Video Games Are Good for You! ISBN 9781543571592.
Schwartz, Heather E. The Basics of Game Design. ISBN 9781543571516.
––––. The History of Gaming. ISBN 9781543571561.
––––. Video Games Save the World. ISBN 9781543571585.
ea vol: 32p. (Video Game Revolution). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2019. Tr. $28.65.
Gr 3-9 –This series puts a positive spotlight on gaming, much to the delight of its target audience. Esports Revolution outlines the history and future of gaming as a competitive sport, including potential career paths. This title does have a little overlap with Paid to Game, which talks about streaming, reviewing, and content creation as possible sources of revenue for passionate gamers. Video Games Are Good for You and Video Games Save the World show the benefits of gaming, from encouraging people to think creatively to how gaming makes for a more tech-savvy future workforce. Virtual reality games have even been made for medical students to practice techniques on digital patients. The Basics of Game Design will walk readers through the steps of creating their own content. VERDICT A first-purchase series. Well-written and engaging, these books will appeal to kids who are interested in gaming or need to write a persuasive paper.

Sprott, Gary. Amphibious Vehicles. ISBN 9781731614582; ISBN 9781731612595.
––––. ATVs. ISBN 9781731614544; ISBN 9781731612557.
––––. Dirt Bikes. ISBN 9781731614568; ISBN 9781731612571.
––––. Jeeps. ISBN 9781731614575; ISBN 9781731612588.
––––. Military Vehicles. ISBN 9781731614551; ISBN 9781731612564.
––––. Trucks. ISBN 9781731614537; ISBN 9781731612540.
ea vol: 32p. (Off-Road Vehicles). glossary. index. photos. Rourke/High Tide. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.50. pap. $8.95.
Gr 3-9 –Readers who love nature and big machines will find much to enjoy in this series. Amphibious Vehicles includes passenger vehicles that use engines on land and propellers or water jet propulsion in the water, like WWII-era Duck vehicles and amphitanks as well as passenger cars that aren’t in mass production. Practical and fun uses are outlined in ATVs. Dirt bikes can be ridden on all kinds of terrain and have different types of engines with varying levels of power. Fun facts, like how Jeep owners can download an app that gives them achievement badges, will excite young readers. When appropriate, safety gear is suggested. Each volume incorporates reading comprehension activities and questions. A mix of high-energy photos and clear, easy-to-understand content will deliver thrills to eager readers. VERDICT High-appeal books that will see lots of circulation.

West, David. Combat Helicopters. ISBN 9780778766650; ISBN 9780778766797.
––––. Combat Planes. ISBN 9780778766667; ISBN 9780778766803.
––––. Rockets and Missiles. ISBN 9780778766674; ISBN 9780778766827.
––––. Submarines. ISBN 9780778766681; ISBN 9780778766834.
––––. Tanks. ISBN 9780778766698; ISBN 9780778766841.
––––. Warships. ISBN 9780778766780; ISBN 9780778766858.
ea vol: 32p. (War Machines). glossary. index. illus. Crabtree. Jul. 2019. lib. ed. $27.60. pap. $8.95.
Gr 5-8 –Readers will learn that the military is often at the forefront of new tech in these thorough explorations of the history of military vehicles. Combat Planes takes readers from the wood and canvas bi-planes of WWI to jump jets that take off vertically and unmanned aerial vehicles and drones. Submarines is lengthy and surprising, with the first sub being made in 1720 for a ­Russian czar and equipped with flamethrowers. Tanks started as a way to cross dangerous no-man’s-land territory and have evolved into powerful weapons. From human- or wind-powered wooden vessels to battle cruisers and aircraft carriers, the evolution of warships will amaze readers. Included illustrations and simple, straight-forward text are substantial and informative. Specs in the back of each volume highlight the size and origins of each machine described. VERDICT With workman like text and illustrations, these titles are additional purchases and useful as supplements.


Librarians in the market for new and exciting tech texts will find much to admire in this array. “Disruptors in Tech” (Cherry Lake) not only highlights innovative thinking, but will inspire entrepreneurial readers to explore the limits of their minds. “Mission Code” (Lerner) uses a hands-on approach to coach the next generation of developers to experiment with web design. “Robots” (World Book) and “Off-Road Vehicles” (Rourke/High Tide) show the practical application of invention, while “Video Game Revolution” (Capstone) extols the virtues of play. “Simple Machines Fun!” (Bellwether) shows that not all tech has to be high tech. “VR on the Job” (Cavendish) and “The Promise and Perils of Technology” (Rosen/Rosen Young Adult) deliver excellent research material. “Code Academy” (Crabtree) can be a useful instructional introduction for classroom or storytime units. Like the gears in a clock, these series will work together to make your collection timely.

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