Under the Hood: Machines | Series Made Simple Spring 2011

SMS_LogoWeb.7(Original Import)Read Series Made Simple, School Library Journal's guide to the latest series nonfiction

This selection of series on machines covers all kinds of dragsters, muscle cars, construction equipment, sports cars, and motorcycles. The challenge is always for the authors and publishers to construct a series with worthwhile content and appropriate vocabulary and illustrations. Some have succeeded, while others have succumbed to the urge to “dumb down” the content in the name of controlled vocabulary. The construction and rescue series focus on use while the others mainly provide thrills.

Preschool—Grade 4

SMS1104w_bridges_machines(Original Import)ADAMSON, Thomas K. Dragsters. ISBN 978-1-4296-5319-0. LC 2010025022. ————. Hot Rods. ISBN 978-1-4296-5317-6. LC 2010025023. ————. Lowriders. ISBN 978-1-4296-5314-5. LC 2010025020. ————. Stock Cars. ISBN 978-1-4296-5315-2. LC 2010025021. BRIDGES, Sarah. Muscle Cars. ISBN 978-1-4296-5316-9. LC 2010025024. ————. Sports Cars. ISBN 978-1-4296-5318-3. LC 2010025025. ea vol: 24p. (Pebble Plus: Rev It Up! Series). photos. reprods. further reading. glossary. index. Web sites. CIP. Capstone. 2011. PLB $23.99. K-Gr 1—These slim titles, with two exceptions, are so simplistic that there is hardly any content. Each book is arranged in the same four-chapter format of two or three sentences facing a colorful photo that shares part of the narrative page. The wording is often vague, and at other times serves merely as a photo caption. Readers are sometimes left to decide to which part of the photo the text applies. Only one page in the entire series (in Muscle Cars) identifies a vehicle by make or model. Though there are glossaries, the words defined there are not bolded in the narratives. Exclamations such as, “Vroom! Vroom!” and “Zoooom!” add little. Racing stripes, hot-rod flames, and sandbags are described as being parts of the car along with items such as the engine and the wheels. Though Muscle Cars and Sports Cars are also quite simple, they are possibilities if the need is serious; the value of the other books lies only in their neat photos.

rescuevehiclesbodden(Original Import)BODDEN, Valerie. Ambulances. ISBN 978-1-60818-004-2. LC 2009048811. ————. Fire Trucks. ISBN 978-1-60818-006-6. LC 2009048827. ————. Helicopters. ISBN 978-1-60818-005-9. LC 2009048815. ————. Rescue Boats. ISBN 978-1-60818-007-3. LC 2009048829. ea vol: 24p. (Rescue Vehicles Series). photos. reprods. further reading. glossary. index. Web sites. CIP. Creative Education. 2011. PLB $16.95. Gr 1-2—The narratives are almost identical in these volumes, with only the vehicle names and a few details changed. The books, especially Fire Trucks, assume no prior knowledge on the part of readers, which is unrealistic. Vocabulary concerning the tools and equipment is fair, but the choice of glossary words is odd. In Rescue Boats, rescue from a sinking ship is so poorly explained that it sounds as though the workers take the passengers from the ship, immerse them, and then help them onto the rescue boat. The color photos, which are of average quality, vary in size from a page to a spread. At times, captions are misplaced and/or incomplete. The history of each vehicle feels tacked on, and the index choices are puzzling.

whatdoesitdoambulance(Original Import)CAPICI, Gaetano. Bulldozer. ISBN 978-1-60279-972-1; ISBN 978-1-61080-007-5. LC 2010023580. ————. Cement Mixer. ISBN 978-1-60279-973-8; ISBN 978-1-61080-008-2. LC 2010023581. GREGORY, Josh. Ambulance. ISBN 978-1-60279-969-1; ISBN 978-1-61080-004-4. LC 2010023579. ————. Crane. ISBN 978-1-60279-967-7; ISBN 978-1-61080-002-0. LC 2010023582. ————. Fire Truck. ISBN 978-1-60279-971-4; ISBN 978-1-61080-006-8. LC 2010023585. ————. Tractor. ISBN 978-1-60279-970-7; ISBN 978-1-61080-005-1. LC 2010023546. ZEIGER, Jennifer. Digger. ISBN 978-1-60279-968-4; ISBN 978-1-61080-003-7. LC 2010023583. ————. Dump Truck. ISBN 978-1-60279-974-5; ISBN 978-1-61080-009-9. LC 2010023584. ea vol: 24p. (Community Connections: What Does It Do? Series). photos. glossary. index. Web sites. CIP. Cherry Lake. 2011. PLB $24.21; ebook $24.21.| Gr 1-2—Extremely close-up photos that do not permit good perspective combine with inconsistent vocabulary to produce a series that assumes that readers have never encountered any of these machines. Overly simplistic word choices such as “tools” in place of “equipment” or “implement,” and “hurt” instead of “injured,” contrast with “emergency,” “technician,” and “structure.” Bold-faced words are not defined in the text, and the glossaries are superfluous. Some pronunciations are a bit strained. About half of the text in each book is devoted to asking questions such as, “Have you ever seen a bulldozer?” Many of the stock photos, which feature equipment with brand names removed, are European in origin and do not translate well to this country. The numerous sidebars are also full of questions and add little to the text. Many captions are redundant. There isn’t enough content here to make this series worth considering.

SMS1104w_georgiou_machines(Original Import)GEORGIOU, Tyrone. Funny Car Dragsters. ISBN 978-1-4339-4695-0; ISBN 978-1-4339-4698-1. LC 2010025706. ————. Pro Stock Dragsters. ISBN 978-1-4339-4699-8; ISBN 978-1-4339-4702-5. LC 2010032327. ————. Pro Stock Motorcycle Dragsters. ISBN 978-1-4339-4703-2; ISBN 978-1-4339-4706-3. LC 2010035245. ————. Top Fuel Dragsters. ISBN 978-1-4339-4707-0; ISBN 978-1-4339-4710-0. LC 2010039130. ea vol: 24p. (Fast Lane: Drag Racing Series). further reading. glossary. index. Web sites. CIP. Gareth Stevens. 2011. PLB $22.60; ebook $22.60. Gr 2-5—Several chapter titles in each of these volumes have almost identical wording. Though the material is informative, its quality varies almost as though each book were written by a different author. Vocabulary is sometimes uneven; words such as “nitromethane” and “parachute” are used, but easier words such as “injured” are avoided (as in the “Community Connections” books above, drivers may instead be “hurt”). The narrative voice switches between second and third person. Glossary words are not noted in the text, and there is no pronunciation guide. A “Fast Fact” box in each chapter seldom relates to the rest of the presentation, and, throughout, remarks such as “Wow!” add nothing. Details are inconsistent at times. Pro Stock Dragsters, for example, explains that the vehicle’s wheels are 17 inches in width, but Top Fuel Dragsters mentions the same measurement without saying whether it refers to the wheels’ diameter or width. Full-page, usually well-captioned color photos occupy the right side of each spread; these are of low quality, with some blurring and with content that is too cluttered to have a focal point. Of the titles, Pro Stock Dragsters and Pro Stock Motorcycle Dragsters are the best choices.

SMS1104w_portman_machines(Original Import)NIVER, Heather. Camaros. ISBN 978-1-4339-4735-3; ISBN 978-1-4339-4738-4. LC 2010032883. ————. GTOs. ISBN 978-1-4339-4747-6; ISBN 978-1-4339-4750-6. LC 2010037589. PORTMAN, Michael. Chargers. ISBN 978-1-4339-4739-1; ISBN 978-1-4339-4742-1. LC 2010035555. ————. Chevelles. ISBN 978-1-4339-4743-8; ISBN 978-1-4339-4746-9. LC 2010038391. ————. Mustangs. ISBN 978-1-4339-4751-3; ISBN 978-1-4339-4754-4. LC 2010037587. ————. Torinos. ISBN 978-1-4339-4755-1; ISBN 978-1-4339-4758-2. LC 2010039151. ea vol: 32p. (Wild Wheels Series). photos. further reading. glossary. index. Web sites. CIP. Gareth Stevens. 2011. PLB $26.60; ebook $26.60. Gr 3-6—This series is sure to be as popular as the subjects themselves. The light, somewhat breezy texts move quickly, presenting the history of the cars and just the right amount of information. Additional discussion and statistics appear in “Inside the Machine” boxes. The vocabulary is right on target. The bright, colorful illustrations are excellent, usually filling the spreads as background to the narratives. Boxed captions are informative, and are placed so that they do not detract from the illustrations. The only disappointment might be GTOs. Whereas the other titles are about one specific muscle car, this book covers the “Gran Turismo Omologato,” a class of race car that covers many different makes. The information in this one is interesting, but readers will likely expect the featured car to be the Pontiac GTO, which has only about six pages devoted to it. Overall, though, this series is a first purchase.

fantasticvehiclesridley(Original Import)RIDLEY, Frances. Amazing Motorcycles. ISBN 978-1-84898-381-6. LC 2010925596. ————. Awesome Supercars. ISBN 978-1-84898-384-7. LC 2010925598. ————. Emergency Rescue! ISBN 978-1-84898-383-0. LC 2010925599. ————. Speedy Jet Planes. ISBN 978-1-84898-382-3. LC 2010925594. ea vol: 24p. (My Reading Library: Fantastic Vehicles Series). photos. glossary. index. New Forest Press. 2011. PLB $24.25. Gr 2-3—Ridley has done a fairly good job of maintaining vocabulary appropriate to the topics, but these books unfortunately lack pronunciation guidance or introductory material. Each chapter spread provides a large, colorful illustration of the featured vehicle on a pastel background accompanied by a single cropped photo (usually a close-up of one part). Several simple sentences accompany the illustrations on each spread. The information is generally accurate, but each title has some questionable areas. Jet Planes, for example, when discussing a VTOL aircraft, mentions that it does not need a runway, but fails to say why, and Supercars describes a car as being “launched,” a term that has space connotations. The books also lack conclusions or summaries, which makes the endings abrupt. There is a surprising amount of information in this series but its flaws make it a secondary purchase.

fastridesjetspeed(Original Import)SANDLER. Michael. Dynamic Drag Racers. ISBN 978-1-61772-138-0; ISBN 978-1-61772-182-3. LC 2010041872. ————. Electrifying Eco-Race Cars. ISBN 978-1-61772-137-3; ISBN 978-1-61772-183-0. LC 2010040095. ————. Hot Hot Rods. ISBN 978-1-61772-139-7; ISBN 978-1-61772-184-7. LC 2010041875. ————. Jet-Powered Speed. ISBN 978-1-61772-136-6; ISBN 978-1-61772-185-4. LC 2010037210. ea vol: 24p. (Fast Rides Series). photos. bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. Web sites. CIP. Bearport. 2011. PLB $22.61; ebook $16.96. Gr 3-6—Sharp, colorful photos and succinct texts provide brief but informative introductions to record-setting vehicles. Chapter spreads vary in length, but they adequately cover the topics. Captions add to the close-up photos, some of which cover the bottom half of spreads, while others occupy full pages; there are also smaller inset images. Each chapter opens with data on the type of car and its top speed, and includes other related information such as its horsepower, driver, and the location of the track where the record was set. The narratives, which are provided in framed chunks accompanied by one sidebar per spread, read smoothly. A closing “More…” page depicts, for example, a school bus doing a wheelie as well as an image of Shirley Muldowney, the first female Top Fuel dragster and first female champion (Drag Racers). This series deserves first consideration.

There are more good choices in this season’s lineup than in previous seasons. Gareth Stevens’s “Wild Wheels” is a definite winner, and Bearport’s “Fast Rides” is in the race as well. New Forest Press’s “My Reading Library: Fantastic Vehicles” is acceptable, but is a secondary purchase when compared to the others. Sports Cars and Muscle Cars from Capstone’s “Pebble Plus: Rev It Up!” are marginal options, as are Pro Stock Dragsters and Pro Stock Motorcycle Dragsters from Gareth Stevens’s “Fast Lane: Drag Racing.” Cherry Lake’s “Community Connections: What Does It Do?” and Creative Education’s “Rescue Vehicles” won’t even make it to the starting line.

Read Series Made Simple, School Library Journal's guide to the latest series nonfiction

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