Wisdom from the Past | History Series Nonfiction

Fifteen new series offer readers a deep dive into the past—from ancient times to the 20th century. 


 

 

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, it is natural to reflect on the past and contemplate how much lies ahead of us. Forthright discussions of those who have been overlooked and individual and corporate shortcomings are explored in some of this season’s titles. Readers learn about people and places from the past and make connections to the present. The ingenuity of humans is also a theme, with titles that summarize the history and contributions of civilizations, the determination to help those in need, and the creativity expressed through music and art. Auxiliary content (QR codes, vetted website links, and educator resources) is offered in the selections, too.

 

ELEMENTARY

Abdo, Kenny. Country Music History. ISBN 9781532129407.
––––. Jazz Music History. ISBN 9781532129414.
––––. Latin Music History. ISBN 9781532129421.
––––. Pop Music History. ISBN 9781532129438.
––––. Rap Music History. ISBN 9781532129445.
––––. Rock Music History. ISBN 9781532129452.
ea vol: 24p. (Musical Notes). ABDO/Fly!. Dec. 2019. Tr. $27.07.
Gr 2-8 –These titles offer a brief overview of each musical genre and profiles of selected artists performing in that genre. Organized chronologically, each book has a table of contents, a glossary (featuring boldface words from the text), and an index. The musician profiles cover different decades of the 20th and 21st centuries and feature artists young people will recognize. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of representation of people of color and women in some of the genres. Clear black-and-white and color photographs fill the pages of these books. Photo credits are listed on the Cataloging in Publication (CIP) page, but there are no captions, which greatly limits the educational and research potential for these titles. A bibliography is not listed, but a QR code to a site with vetted resources is provided. VERDICT Libraries should seek other titles that provide more inclusive music histories and captioned photographs.


Bodden, Valerie. Cheyenne. ISBN 9781640262232. 
––––. Comanche.
ISBN 9781640262249.
––––. Hopi. ISBN 9781640262256.
––––. Inuit. ISBN 9781640262263.
––––. Seminole. ISBN 9781640262270.
––––. Shawnee. ISBN 9781640262287. 
ea vol: 24p. (First Peoples). Creative Company/Creative Education. Jan. 2020. Tr. $29.95.
Gr 1-3 –Brief descriptions of each tribe’s history, the residences they built, their interactions with Europeans and the U.S. government, and some of their culture compose these books for younger readers. Each title also includes a traditional story attributed to the tribe. Glossary words are emphasized and capitalized within the text. Two websites and two recommended books are listed in the back matter; however, the author lists the same two books for each title, neither of which is specific to any of the highlighted tribes. Despite an abundance of photographs with credits, very few of the photographs are captioned. No sources are listed for the stories attributed to the respective tribes, and more than half of the content is written in the past tense. VERDICT Seek other titles to educate readers about Indigenous people living in the United States.

 

Burgan, Michael. Grace of Monaco. ISBN 9780531131732.
Doak, Robin. Diana Princess of Wales. ISBN 9780531131718.
Parker, Katie. Nefertiti. ISBN 9780531131725.
Yomtov, Nel. Elizabeth I. ISBN 9780531131749.
ea vol: 48p. (A True Book: Queens and Princesses). Scholastic/Children’s Pr. Feb. 2020. Tr. $31.
Gr 3-5 –These Western-focused, chronological biographies feature clear writing and an abundance of photographs, artifacts, and sidebars to draw readers in and keep them engaged. The authors include interesting facts that will appeal to young people, along with complex representations of the issues these women faced (loneliness, divorce, childbirth, and executions). These books are useful for research and reports as they contain succinct facts, a time line of events, a family tree, an index, a glossary, and recommended titles (most of which are juvenile). However, the books are marred by a distracting use of multicolored words on the opening two pages of each book. They also lack citations or references for quoted material. Images are captioned and credited but are not consistently dated. VERDICT These are realistic biographies for collections in need of additional books about these queens and princesses.

 

Fishman, Jon M. Ninja Weapons. ISBN 9781541577084.
––––. Real-Life Ninja. ISBN 9781541577060.
––––. Train Like a Ninja. ISBN 9781541577077.
Waxman, Laura Hamilton. Ninja Competitions. ISBN 9781541577053.
ea vol: 24p. (Lightning Bolt Books - Ninja Mania). Lerner. Jan. 2020. Tr. $26.65.
Gr 1-3 –Ninja of past and present appear in this series that describes the history of Japanese ninja and current information about those following ninja-style training. Photographs and illustrations, which are credited and mostly captioned, supplement the text and allow readers to visualize some of the intense training, the landscape, and the weapons used by ninja. Their role in popular culture is also addressed. Profiles of three historical ninja (including a woman and one modern ninja), one profile per title, are also included. Some of the content is repeated across titles, particularly ninja clothing, weapons, and training. Readers learn that ninja do not necessarily wear black outfits, yet photographs often show ninja wearing black outfits. Websites, an index, and recommended books (some from this series) are included. VERDICT The discussion of modern ninja training may inspire budding athletes, but these titles are generally unremarkable.


Glaser, Jason. The Most Powerful Words of the Civil War. ISBN 9781538248171.
Kawa, Katie. The Most Powerful Presidential Words. ISBN 9781538247976.
Levy, Janey. The Most Powerful Words About Women’s Rights. ISBN 9781538248096.
McAneney, Caitie. The Most Powerful Words About the American Dream. ISBN 9781538248058.
Morlock, Jeremy. The Most Powerful Words of the American Revolution. ISBN 9781538248133.
Smykowski, Sarah. The Most Powerful Words About Civil Rights. ISBN 9781538248010.
ea vol: 32p. (Words That Shaped America). Rosen/Gareth Stevens. Jan. 2020. Tr. $26.60.
Gr 4-6 –Using a chronological format and an approachable style, the authors present U.S. history with quotes from leaders to laypeople. Each title begins and ends with an essay to frame the book’s content. Quotes are embedded within the text, and they are contextualized with both narrative and visuals. There are not consistent references for the included quotes, which is unfortunate. The Most Powerful Words About Women’s Rights falls short in presenting information about women’s suffrage. A glossary is included, but words within quotes are defined in brackets within the text. Sidebars and captioned images add relevant facts. A list of recommended books and websites is included in the back matter. VERDICT This series suffers from a limited presentation of the women’s suffrage movement and a lack of consistent source referencing.

 

Marquardt, Meg. 12 Things to Know About the Bronze Age. ISBN 9781632357663.
––––. 12 Things to Know About the Iron Age. ISBN 9781632357687.
––––. 12 Things to Know About the Mesolithic Age. ISBN 9781632357694.
––––. 12 Things to Know About the Neolithic Age. ISBN 9781632357700.
––––. 12 Things to Know About the Paleolithic Age. ISBN 9781632357717.
ea vol: 32p. (Prehistoric). Bookstaves/12 Story Library. Jan. 2020. Tr. $32.80.
Gr 3-5 –These middle grade titles explain thousands of years of history through 12 themes, from architecture to religion. Clear explanations are provided for the specific time periods, people, and events covered, as well as for the terms BCE and CE. Civilizations outside of the West are represented respectfully. Practical and relevant facts (an ancient board game is compared to Chutes and Ladders), often delivered in sidebars, enable readers to connect with the text, as do a time line, drawings, and photographs. All images are credited but not consistently captioned. A few titles have mislabeled pages. No sources are listed, which readers would find especially useful in learning about the theories of early history presented in 12 Things to Know About the Paleolithic Age. The back matter features recommended books and a link to a curated research website. VERDICT These clear, informative titles suffer from printing errors, inconsistent captions, and a lack of references.

 

McDaniel, Sarita. Duchesses. ISBN 9781978511996.
––––. Dukes. ISBN 9781978511958.
––––. Kings. ISBN 9781978511798.
––––. Princes. ISBN 9781978511873.
––––. Princesses. ISBN 9781978511910.
––––. Queens. ISBN 9781978511835.
ea vol: 24p. (Meet the Royals). Rosen/Enslow. Jan. 2020. Tr. $22.60.
K-Gr 3 –For readers who have an interest in anything royal, these titles offer basic facts and numerous photographs. A “Words to Know” glossary follows the title page, listing common words for the series and a few specific words per title. Within short sentences and paragraphs, general explanations of what monarchies are and their existence throughout history are followed by information regarding the roles and responsibilities of people holding these positions. Content is repeated across Duchesses and Dukes and within the sidebars for most of the titles. Duchesses and Dukes focus almost exclusively on Europeans, specifically the British, while the other titles describe royals from Africa, Asia, and Europe. The images are all captioned and credited, but at least one needs additional details. Recommended books and websites, several of which are repeated between titles, and an index are included. VERDICT Purchase individual titles where demand is high.

 

O’Neill, Sean. 50 Things You Didn’t Know About Ancient Egypt. ISBN 9781634407922.
––––. 50 Things You Didn’t Know About Ancient Greece. ISBN 9781634407939.
––––. 50 Things You Didn’t Know About Ancient Rome. ISBN 9781634407946.
––––. 50 Things You Didn’t Know About Colonial America. ISBN 9781634407960.
––––. 50 Things You Didn’t Know About the Middle Ages. ISBN 9781634407953.
––––. 50 Things You Didn’t Know About the Old West. ISBN 9781634407977.
ea vol: 32p. (50 Things You Didn’t Know About). Red Chair. Jan. 2020. Tr. $27.99.
Gr 2-4 –Each browsable title in this series opens with a brief introduction of the featured time period or civilization. Then, a numbered list of facts (1–50), organized by subjects like “Daily Life” and “Gods and Mythology,” is presented to readers. The text is clearly written, and the cartoon illustrations allow readers to engage with the text. The author also includes interesting facts. (For example, “Pharaoh Hatshepsut was a woman, but she wore all the same adornments as a male king—including a fake beard.”) Some contradictory or possibly misleading statements and typos distract. The majority of the information is available in other current titles. A table of contents, a recommended book and a website list, and an index are in each book. VERDICT The appealing format and humorous illustrations are not enough to warrant purchasing these titles.

 

Wilkins, Veronica B. California Gold Rush. ISBN 9781645271291.
––––. Civil Rights Movement. ISBN 9781645271321.
––––. Dust Bowl. ISBN 9781645271352.
––––. Great Depression. ISBN 9781645271383.
––––. Industrial Revolution. ISBN 9781645271413.
––––. Women’s Suffrage Movement. ISBN 9781645271444.
ea vol: 24p. (Turning Points in U.S. History). Jump!/Pogo. Aug. 2020. Tr. $26.99.
Gr 2-5 –This series makes crucial events in U.S. history accessible to younger readers. Through clear writing and organization, the books describe the causes, the outcomes, and the conclusion of each turning point. Photographs, sidebars (which often contain facts and critical thinking questions), and relevant and appropriately placed maps and diagrams support the text. Photographs, while credited, aren’t always captioned; however, readers can gather most pertinent information from the text. Dust Bowl and Industrial Revolution make cross-curricular connections to science and technology. Great Depression doesn’t show any people of color within the book, and Women’s Suffrage Movement does not mention the suffrage efforts or struggles of Indigenous or black women. There are no sources or recommended titles listed in the back matter, but a link to a curated list of websites is included. VERDICT Purchase individual titles only as needed to support student research.


MIDDLE TO HIGH SCHOOL

Braun, Eric. Could You Survive the Cretaceous Period?: An Interactive Prehistoric Adventure. illus. by Alessandro Valdrighi. ISBN 9781543574012.
Doeden, Matt. Could You Survive the Jurassic Period?: An Interactive Prehistoric Adventure. illus. by Juan Calle Velez. ISBN 9781543574029.
Hoena, Blake. Could You Survive the Ice Age?: An Interactive Prehistoric Adventure. illus. by Alessandro Valdrighi. ISBN 9781543574043.
Troupe, Thomas Kingsley. Could You Survive the New Stone Age?: An Interactive Prehistoric Adventure. illus. by Juan Calle Velez. ISBN 9781543574050.
ea vol: 112p. (You Choose: Prehistoric Survival). Capstone. Jan. 2020. Tr. $32.65.
Gr 3-7 –In a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style, each title takes readers through different prehistoric periods using fictionalized scenarios and dialogue. The books have a standard format that includes a common introduction, a story from modern times, three different interactive worlds from the past, and a summary of the specific historical period. The characters interact with animals, plants, and occasionally humans in the often deadly adventures. Black-and-white illustrations portray the action well and complement the text. The back matter contains critical thinking questions, recommended reading in print and online, a bibliography, a glossary, and an index. One scenario in Could You Survive the Jurassic Period? stretches credulity, and the content in the other titles comes across as didactic at times. VERDICT While there are cross curricular applications with science and social studies, these titles aren’t as strong as others in the series.


Cunningham, Kevin. The Emancipation Proclamation. ISBN 9781644930809.
Ghafoerkhan, Olivia. Reconstruction. ISBN 9781644930830.
Herschbach, Elizabeth. Black Soldiers in the Civil War. ISBN 9781644930786.
Jopp, Kelsey. Early Battles of the Civil War. ISBN 9781644930793.
––––. John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid. ISBN 9781644930823.
Roberts, Russell. The Formation of the Confederacy. ISBN 9781644930816.
––––. Turning Points of the Civil War. ISBN 9781644930854.
Streissguth, Tom. Sherman’s March to the Sea. ISBN 9781644930847.
ea vol: 48p. (The Civil War). North Star Editions/Focus Readers. Jan. 2020. Tr. $31.35.
Gr 5-9 –Clearly written titles introduce readers to different aspects of the Civil War, from the Confederacy’s founding to Reconstruction. Historical details come alive through the inclusion of biographical profiles of people relevant to each title’s subject. Captioned black-and-white photographs generally help readers appreciate the text and the time period further. In addition, each title provides access to critical thinking questions and sidebars interspersed throughout the text. Maps of battlefields and charts of key dates or battles sufficiently supplement the text but are not sourced. Cited sources are provided only for the profiles. With various writers for this series, the level of balanced historical representation varies. Recommended books, a comprehension quiz (with multiple choice and open-ended questions), a glossary, and an index are found in the back matter of each book. VERDICT Purchase individual titles only if in need of additional Civil War materials.

 

Custance, Petrice. Women Inventors Hidden in History. ISBN 9780778772972.
––––. Women Writers Hidden in History. ISBN 9780778773030.
Eason, Sarah. Women Rulers Hidden in History. ISBN 9780778772996.
––––. Women Warriors Hidden in History. ISBN 9780778773016.
O’Brien, Cynthia. Women Scientists Hidden in History. ISBN 9780778773009.
Rodger, Ellen. Women Explorers Hidden in History. ISBN 9780778772965.
ea vol: 48p. (Hidden History). Crabtree. Mar. 2020. Tr. $31.32.
Gr 5-9 –Women from ancient times through today are celebrated in this series about how women (like Madam C.J. Walker and Wu Zetian) have impacted the world. The historical context surrounding those profiled is explained. After an introductory chapter, two-to-six-page profiles of women from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe are organized by continent. Details about each woman’s life (including her education, contributions, and legacy) are covered in the text and sidebars. Illustrations and images are included with every profile. Some of those profiled are not from the region in which they are profiled, and a misspelled name, some hard-to-read sidebars, and the lack of sources for quotes or other materials are disappointing. However, a list of relevant recommended books and a website list make up the back matter. ­VERDICT The global focus on the contributions of women is to be commended, but the missteps overshadow the content.


Green, Sara. Ancient Greece. ISBN 9781644871768.
––––. Ancient India. ISBN 9781644871775.
––––. Ancient Maya. ISBN 9781644871782.
––––. Ancient Mesopotamia. ISBN 9781644871799.
Oachs, Emily Rose. Ancient Aztecs. ISBN 9781644871737.
––––. Ancient China. ISBN 9781644871744.
––––. Ancient Egypt. ISBN 9781644871751.
––––. Ancient Rome. ISBN 9781644871805.
ea vol: 32p. (Ancient Civilizations). Bellwether/Blastoff! Discovery. Jan. 2020. Tr. $26.95.
Gr 3-8 –Colorful covers welcome readers to fictionalized stories about a child from the civilization and details about the history, culture, daily life, and demise of the civilization. A time line, along with comparison charts related to language, forms of government, religious practices, and education structures (plus sidebars) supplement the narrative. Civilizations from nearly every continent are covered. Each title contains information about the society’s class structure. The people of each civilization are presented as accomplished; examples of ingenuity are included. The lasting impact and/or references to contemporary descendants are highlighted. Inconsistent captioning of photographs does a disservice to readers looking to learn more. A table of contents, photo credits, recommended reading, a link to recommended websites, and an index are featured in every book. VERDICT Criticisms aside, these titles contain useful information for research.


Hamilton, John. Saving Apollo 13. ISBN 9781532190056.
Hamilton, S.L. Chilean Mining Accident. ISBN 9781532190018.
––––. Fleeing California Wildfires. ISBN 9781532190025.
––––. Maersk Alabama Hijacking. ISBN 9781532190032.
––––. Miracle Landing on the Hudson. ISBN 9781532190049.
––––. Trapped in a Thailand Cave. ISBN 9781532190063.
ea vol: 32p. (Xtreme Rescues). ABDO/A&D Xtreme. Dec. 2019. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-9 –This intermediate series covers extreme rescue events in an appealing way. Emergency rescues vary in currency and in location; spotlighted topics include the 2018 California wildfires and the Apollo 13 mission. Each title begins with a summary of what necessitated an extreme rescue and moves into a chronological narrative. Colorful photographs of the subjects, consistently well-written content, brief and informative sidebars, and useful graphics offer a lively overview of every event. Practical survival tips are provided, and while relevant, can be hard to grasp given the unique nature of some of the rescues. A table of contents, a glossary, and photo credits are provided. Measurement information appears in both standard and metric. No source notes are given, despite some titles including statistics, but a QR code links to additional information on each accident. VERDICT Solid titles that provide clear information on these famous rescues.

 

Loh-Hagan, Virginia. Citizens Imprisoned: Japanese Internment Camps. ISBN 9781534159419.
––––. Crashed: Great Depression. ISBN 9781534159440.
––––. Detained and Interrogated: Angel Island Immigration. ISBN 9781534159396.
––––. Fire and Brimstone: Salem Witch Trials. ISBN 9781534159457.
––––. Save the Children: Orphan Trains. ISBN 9781534159433.
––––. Struck Gold: California Gold Rush. ISBN 9781534159426.
––––. Walk to Freedom: Montgomery Bus Boycott. ISBN 9781534159464.
––––. When the Ground Shook: San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. ISBN 9781534159402.
ea vol: 32p. (Behind the Curtain). Cherry Lake/45th Parallel. Jan. 2020. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 4-8 –Readers learn about specific people and events from U.S. history through two styles: a straight narrative and a fictionalized, reader’s theater exchange. A historical summary of events and a list of characters open this series. The characters, who are based on real people, interact using fictionalized dialogue in two sections labeled Acts I and II. Repeated sidebars introduce individual and governmental shortcomings related to the highlighted subject. Critical thinking activities and recommended books, specific to each title, are in the back matter. There is no bibliography. The color and black-and-white photographs are credited but not captioned, which thwarts further learning. The fictionalized dialogue and some of the narrative sequences, while clearly written, can be choppy, sensationalistic, or misleading at times. VERDICT Each title is a dynamic presentation of historical information, suited for libraries that support drama programs.


With series like “Hidden History” (Crabtree) and “A True Book: Queens and Princesses” (Scholastic/Children’s Pr.) that highlight the underrepresented contributions of women throughout history, there is hope for today’s readers to find mirrors and windows in the books they read. Readers who want to learn about the determination of people from ancient times until today also have a variety of options with “Xtreme Rescues” (ABDO/A&D Xtreme), “Behind the Curtain” (Cherry Lake/45th Parallel), and “Ancient Civilizations” (Bellwether/Blastoff! Discovery). Readers will see history in a new, exciting way.

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