12 Series That Prove Geography is More Than Just Studying Maps

An attention to cultural nuance is what elevates geography series from run-of-the-mill facts to a thoughtful exploration of place.

Where people live and travel and how they work and play, individually and as groups, can reveal much about their cultures and societies. The study of geography provides students with the tools to understand these behaviors and, in a larger sense, the human spirit. Many of the series this season offer a glimpse into the daily lives of kids and teens from around the world. Readers are encouraged to contemplate the physical and cultural geography of Earth, including the cities, states, nations, and globally recognized landmarks that make up our wondrous planet.


Blevins, Wiley. Canada. ISBN 9780531237083; ISBN 9780531239742.

––––. China. ISBN 9780531237076; ISBN 9780531239735.

––––. Japan. ISBN 9780531237052; ISBN 9780531239711.

––––. Mexico. ISBN 9780531237069; ISBN 9780531239728.

ea vol: 32p. (Follow Me Around). charts. chron. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Children’s Pr. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $27. pap. $7.95.

Gr 3-5 –Packed with information, this set features children who invite readers to join them on tours of their countries. In each title, students learn about common types of houses, foods, and schools as well as major cities and regions, manufacturing and agricultural jobs, and notable celebrations and pastimes. Also included in each book is a retelling of a traditional story, a craft/recipe, fascinating facts, a guessing game, and a “How to Prepare for Your Visit” list with tips for potential tourists. Overall, the author approaches the content with an upbeat tone, and the good-quality photos, many of which feature children, nicely supplement the texts. VERDICT The conversational style and wide range of information included will make this a useful series for report writers and browsers.

Bluthenthal, Todd. Earth’s Continents. ISBN 9781482464153; ISBN 9781482464139.

––––. Earth’s Hemispheres. ISBN 9781482464191; ISBN 9781482464177.

––––. The Equator. ISBN 9781482464238; ISBN 9781482464214.

––––. Making Maps. ISBN 9781482464276; ISBN 9781482464252.

––––. The North Pole. ISBN 9781482464313; ISBN 9781482464290.

––––. The South Pole. ISBN 9781482464351; ISBN 9781482464337.

ea vol: 24p. (Where on Earth? Mapping Parts of the World). further reading. glossary. illus. maps. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $22.60. pap. $10.95.

Gr 2-4 –Concise definitions and explanations supported by simple yet effective images will help elementary schoolers understand the basics of geography and how maps represent the physical world. This series excels at providing content that is right on target for the intended audience. For example, Maps illustrates the concept of a bird’s-eye perspective with an aerial color photo of a busy intersection and surrounding buildings, and Hemisphere not only defines the term but also includes maps that show all four hemispheres. In each title, visuals include quality surface and satellite photos and computer-generated images, all well captioned and labeled. However, the rather unattractive covers will likely put off potential readers. Librarians will have to do some handselling. Basic geographic features and the concept of maps are often difficult for younger students and this set makes them much clearer. ­VERDICT A top choice for nonfiction collections serving elementary school students.

Crane, Cody. Massachusetts. ISBN 9780 531252598; ISBN 9780531232897.

––––. New York. ISBN 9780531252628; ISBN 9780531232927.

Franchino, Vicky. Maryland. ISBN 9780 531252581; ISBN 9780531232880.

Gregory, Josh. Alaska. ISBN 9780531252512; ISBN 9780531232811.

––––. Illinois. ISBN 9780531252567; ISBN 9780531232866.

––––. Michigan. ISBN 9780531252604; ISBN 9780531232903.

––––. Texas. ISBN 9780531252635; ISBN 9780531232934.

Mattern, Joanne. Hawai’i. ISBN 9780 531252550; ISBN 9780531232859.

Newman, Lauren. California. ISBN 9780 531252529; ISBN 9780531232828.

Orr, Tamra B. Florida. ISBN 9780531252543; ISBN 9780531232842.

Yomtov, Nel. New Jersey. ISBN 9780531252611; ISBN 9780531232910.

Zeiger, Jennifer. Colorado. ISBN 9780 531252536; ISBN 9780531232835.

––––. Louisiana. ISBN 9780531252574; ISBN 9780531232873.

ea vol: 48p. (A True Book: My United States). chron. filmog. further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. photos. websites. Children’s Pr. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $31. pap. $7.95.

Gr 3-5 –General state-related history and trivia. Each book opens with an illustrated map of the state that highlights famous and notable places, four of which are spotlighted in smaller inserts. From then on, the series follows a general format, detailing the land, wildlife, politics, culture, and economy of each state. There are numerous outdated stock drawings of American Indians and European “explorers.” In addition, slavery is poorly discussed in Louisiana: “Other Louisianians also came to the state against their will.” In each volume, a concluding “Resources” page lists a number of movies that don’t make sense for the intended audience (Wayne’s World in Illinois and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in ­California). VERDICT No improvement on the many existing state series.

Gitlin, Martin. State Guide to Flags. ISBN 9781683424000; ISBN 9781683424703.

––––. State Guide to Flowers. ISBN 9781683424031; ISBN 9781683424734.

––––. State Guide to Trees. ISBN 9781683423997; ISBN 9781683424697.

Kenney, Karen. State Guide to Birds. ISBN 9781683424017; ISBN 9781683424710.

McNeilly, Linden. State Guide to Historic Monuments. ISBN 9781683424024; ISBN 9781683424727.

Staton, Hilarie. State Guide to Capitals. ISBN 9781683424048; ISBN 9781683424741.

ea vol: 48p. (State Guides). charts. index. photos. Rourke. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $35.64. pap. $10.95.

Gr 3-5 –Red, white, and blue–themed guides for elementary schoolers curious about U.S. states. Each entry contains a photo and a short paragraph or two of general history. The photos are of high quality, but the information included is limited. For example, the entry for Nevada’s flag doesn’t explain its “Battle Born” motto. Historic Monuments is the most notable of the bunch for its coverage of a wide variety of landmarks that commemorate natural, Indigenous, and U.S. history. However, the text could be more specific in places; for instance, the entry for the Natchez National Historical Park only mentions “American Indians” instead of identifying specific tribes. VERDICT Consider ­Historic Monuments for general reference.

Gregory, Josh. Grand Canyon. ISBN 9780531233931; ISBN 9780531240205.

––––. Great Smoky Mountains. ISBN 9780531233924; ISBN 9780531240199.

Orr, Tamra B. Zion. ISBN 9780531233979; ISBN 9780531240243.

Wallace, Audra. Yellowstone. ISBN 9780531233962; ISBN 9780531240236.

––––. Yosemite. ISBN 9780531233955; ISBN 9780531240229.

Zeiger, Jennifer. Rocky Mountain. ISBN 9780531233948; ISBN 9780531240212.

ea vol: 48p. (A True Book: National Parks). charts. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Children’s Pr. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $31. pap. $7.95.

Gr 3-6 –The national parks receive the popular “True Book” format. Each title provides a bit about each park’s history, physical geography, plants and animals, and the role of conservationists and the National Park Service. Many of the topics covered are timely, including climate change in Zion. However, the brief mentions of American Indians are often in the past tense and lack nuance (“They called themselves the Ahwahneechee. The Ahwahneechee were known as fierce warriors.”) The included photos capture much of the majesty of these outdoor retreats, and the numerous nonfiction text features (paw print guides, interactive maps, etc.) are also likely to capture readers’ attention. VERDICT A slightly above average series; however, librarians will need to supplement these books with more comprehensive texts on Native American history.

Heinrichs, Ann. Alabama. ISBN 9781503819412.

––––. Alaska. ISBN 9781503819429.

––––. Arizona. ISBN 9781503819436.

––––. Arkansas. ISBN 9781503819443.

––––. California. ISBN 9781503819450.

––––. Colorado. ISBN 9781503819467.

––––. Connecticut. ISBN 9781503819474.

––––. Delaware. ISBN 9781503819481.

––––. Florida. ISBN 9781503819498.

––––. Georgia. ISBN 9781503819504.

––––. Hawai`i. ISBN 9781503819511.

––––. Idaho. ISBN 9781503819528.

––––. Illinois. ISBN 9781503819535.

––––. Indiana. ISBN 9781503819542.

––––. Iowa. ISBN 9781503819559.

––––. Kansas. ISBN 9781503819566.

––––. Kentucky. ISBN 9781503819573.

––––. Louisiana. ISBN 9781503819580.

––––. Maine. ISBN 9781503819597.

––––. Maryland. ISBN 9781503819603.

––––. Massachusetts. ISBN 9781503819610.

––––. Michigan. ISBN 9781503819627.

––––. Minnesota. ISBN 9781503819634.

––––. Mississippi. ISBN 9781503819641.

––––. Missouri. ISBN 9781503819658.

––––. Montana. ISBN 9781503819665.

––––. Nebraska. ISBN 9781503819672.

––––. Nevada. ISBN 9781503819689.

––––. New Hampshire. ISBN 9781503819696.

––––. New Jersey. ISBN 9781503819702.

––––. New Mexico. ISBN 9781503819719.

––––. New York. ISBN 9781503819726.

––––. North Carolina. ISBN 9781503819733.

––––. North Dakota. ISBN 9781503819740.

––––. Ohio. ISBN 9781503819757.

––––. Oklahoma. ISBN 9781503819764.

––––. Oregon. ISBN 9781503819771.

––––. Pennsylvania. ISBN 9781503819788.

––––. Puerto Rico. ISBN 9781503819924.

––––. Rhode Island. ISBN 9781503819795.

––––. South Carolina. ISBN 9781503819801.

––––. South Dakota. ISBN 9781503819818.

––––. Tennessee. ISBN 9781503819825.

––––. Texas. ISBN 9781503819832.

––––. Utah. ISBN 9781503819849.

––––. Vermont. ISBN 9781503819856.

––––. Virginia. ISBN 9781503819863.

––––. Washington. ISBN 9781503819870.

––––. Washington, DC. ISBN 9781503819917.

––––. West Virginia. ISBN 9781503819887.

––––. Wisconsin. ISBN 9781503819894.

––––. Wyoming. ISBN 9781503819900.

ea vol: 40p. (U.S.A. Travel Guides). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. The Child’s World. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 3-5 –Readers tour each state’s most notable landmarks, from state capitols to iconic statues to an assortment of kid-friendly museums, living history sites, zoos, and quirky festivals and fairs that celebrate everything from “punkin chunkin” in Delaware to UFO mania in Roswell, NM. Each book highlights the people, history, economy, and culture that makes each state unique. Throughout the series, spreads consist of three to four paragraphs, a photo of the featured place, and a drawn state map for reference. Much of the design of the series follows a road trip–themed look (street signs for chapter headings). However, the photos, often low-quality stock images, are a weakness. VERDICT This readable set will have students ready to travel; consider for browsers and/or those tasked with a short report.

Herrington, Lisa M. Grand Canyon National Park. ISBN 9780531233320; ISBN 9780531239049.

––––. Great Smoky Mountains National Park. ISBN 9780531233313; ISBN 9780531239032.

––––. Rocky Mountain National Park. ISBN 9780531233337; ISBN 9780531239056.

Shepherd, Jodie. Zion National Park. ISBN 9780531233368; ISBN 9780531239087.

Wallace, Audra. Yellowstone National Park. ISBN 9780531233351; ISBN 9780531239070.

––––. Yosemite National Park. ISBN 9780531233344; ISBN 9780531239063.

ea vol: 32p. (Rookie National Parks). glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Children’s Pr. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $25. pap. $5.95.

Gr 1-4 –A cartoon guide named “Ranger Red Fox” takes readers on a tour of several of the national parks in this very attractive set. Large clear photos introduce kids to the splendor of nature, while the text covers each park’s history, most scenic spots, and unique plants and animals. In each book, Red Fox, who is superimposed on the photos, adds breezy comical asides and bits of trivia. An easy map activity to locate the “lost” Red Fox and a “Leaf Tracker” quiz encourage critical thinking. Although neither the topics nor the perspective is new, this visually appealing series will please both developing readers and slightly older students who love the outdoors. VERDICT A top choice for elementary schoolers.

James, Helen Foster. Midwest. ISBN 9781634728768; ISBN 9781534100541.

––––. Northeast. ISBN 9781634728744; ISBN 9781534100527.

––––. Southeast. ISBN 9781634728751; ISBN 9781534100534.

––––. Southwest. ISBN 9781634728775; ISBN 9781534100558.

––––. West. ISBN 9781634728782; ISBN 9781534100565.

ea vol: 24p. (Outdoor Explorers). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $28.50. pap. $12.79.

K-Gr 2 –Designed to encourage outdoor exploration, this series takes readers on a “nature hike.” Each title opens with a regional map of the United States along with a list of quick statistics (average winter, average summer, etc.). Readers are then introduced to the flora and fauna of the locale through a collection of photos and bullet points. The texts often ask readers to speculate or answer obscure questions, such as “Indiana’s official state flower is the peony. Why do you think this is?” Answers are not provided, and, in this particular case, the entry on peonies appears several pages later. VERDICT Unlikely to hold the attention of readers.

Markovics, Joyce. Delhi. ISBN 9781684022373.

––––. Los Angeles. ISBN 9781684022311.

––––. Mexico City. ISBN 9781684022366.

––––. New York City. ISBN 9781684022304.

Rudolph, Jessica. Chicago. ISBN 9781 684022342.

––––. London. ISBN 9781684022328.

––––. Paris. ISBN 9781684022335.

––––. Rome. ISBN 9781684022359.

ea vol: 24p. (Citified!). further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Bearport. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $25.64.

K-Gr 2 –Children are welcomed to tour select major world cities in this vibrant and visually pleasing series. The majority of the content in each book is dedicated to covering kid-friendly historic sites, zoos, museums, and parks as well as popular sporting events and foods to eat. In each title, four to six locations are covered, providing readers with a well-rounded understanding of the general character of each metropolis and what its citizens value and enjoy. A concluding “Map It!” page places all visited sites on an otherwise featureless city map. Photos are bright and attractive with a mix of full-page and full-spread shots with insets that show details or related topics. VERDICT Not groundbreaking, but appealing enough to draw a readership. Librarians may want to consider.

Middle to High School

Allen, John. Growing Up in Brazil. ISBN 9781682822050.

––––. Growing Up in China. ISBN 9781 682822098.

Nakaya, Andrea. Growing Up in India. ISBN 9781 682822135.

––––. Growing Up in Japan. ISBN 9781 682822197.

Parks, Peggy J. Growing Up in Italy. ISBN 9781 682822173.

Roland, James. Growing Up in Russia. ISBN 9781682822234.

Sheen, Barbara. Growing Up in Germany. ISBN 9781682822111.

––––. Growing Up in Iran. ISBN 9781682822159.

––––. Growing Up in Mexico. ISBN 9781682822210.

Snyder, Gail. Growing Up in Canada. ISBN 9781682822074.

ea vol: 80p. (Growing Up Around the World). further reading. index. maps. photos. websites. ReferencePoint. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $39.93.

Gr 7 Up –Teens will find relatable information about the lives of their global peers in this set. Each book opens with an “At a Glance” overview of the nation, followed by chapters that discuss the roles of young people with regard to family, school, work, social scenes, and religion. The authors openly discuss both the prospects and the challenges that adolescents face. Thought-provoking quotes from teens who live in and/or visit each country may help U.S. readers gain some perspective in their own lives. Topics include school pressure, family and societal responsibilities, sexuality, and gender roles, including political and cultural attitudes toward LGBTQ youth. While much of the series is refreshing, there are a few instances of questionable source material (quotes from the Daily Mail in Mexico), and in Canada there are just a handful of mentions of the First Nations, the largest being in reference to suicide. VERDICT This series will draw an audience beyond report writers and bears consideration.

Bailey, Diane & Purneema Chhetri. My Teenage Life in Nepal. ISBN 9781422239094.

Bailey, Diane with Aliah Hicks & Cali Hicks. Our Teenage Life in the Navajo Nation. ISBN 9781422239087.

Buckley Jr., James & Hara Adam. My Teenage Life in Greece. ISBN 9781422239049.

Burgan, Michael & Indya Campbell. My Teenage Life in Australia. ISBN 9781422239001.

Cassriel, Betsy & Ricardo Mora. My Teenage Life in Mexico. ISBN 9781422239070.

Centore, Michael & Prashant Sarkar. My Teenage Life in India. ISBN 9781422239056.

Centore, Michael & Tshwarelo Lebeko. My Teenage Life in South Africa. ISBN 9781422239117.

Hulick, Kathryn & Victoria Zhivova. My Teenage Life in Russia. ISBN 9781422239100.

Rich, Mari & Sara Saito. My Teenage Life in Japan. ISBN 9781422239063.

Whiting, Jim & Lucca Passos. My Teenage Life in Brazil. ISBN 9781422239018.

Whiting, Jim & Muhammad Nabil. My Teenage Life in Egypt. ISBN 9781422239032.

Whiting, Jim & Shi Yu Li. My Teenage Life in China. ISBN 9781422239025.

ea vol: 64p. (Custom and Cultures of the World). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Mason Crest. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $31.93.

Gr 6-9 –This series explores typical geography subjects through the conceit of an email exchange by a teen living in the topic country and readers. (The emails are addressed to “The Reader.”) Each book begins by introducing the pen pal, their homes, families, schools, food, recreational activities, and religious faiths. Most of their communications are positive about their lives and families, but some discuss the larger societal challenges they face (the 2008 financial crisis in Greece). In between messages are standard chapters that expand on the country’s history and current events. A few of the books actually include photos of the featured teen in various situations, but most are stock images of young people. VERDICT Not as informative as ReferencePoint’s “Growing Up Around the World.” An additional selection for large collections.

Gitlin, Marty. Australia. ISBN 9781626176751.

––––. Brazil. ISBN 9781626176768.

––––. Japan. ISBN 9781626176843.

––––. Mexico. ISBN 9781626176850.

Oachs, Emily Rose. Canada. ISBN 9781 626176775.

––––. China. ISBN 9781626176782.

––––. India. ISBN 9781626176812.

––––. Iraq. ISBN 9781626176829.

Rechner, Amy. England. ISBN 9781626176799.

––––. France. ISBN 9781626176805.

––––. Italy. ISBN 9781626176836.

––––. Russia. ISBN 9781626176867.

ea vol: 32p. (Country Profiles). charts. chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bellwether. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $26.95.

Gr 4-7 –Attractive photos, well matched with the text, are the strongest element of this set. The books all share a common format, beginning with an introductory photo and description of an iconic location, such as the Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China, or Stonehenge. Additional spreads locate each country and describe its landscape and climate, wildlife, population, schools, sports, foods, and celebrations, with content that is generally positive about it and its people. A “Fact Page” adds statistics, and directions for a children’s game that is popular in the country and a recipe for a traditional dish are pluses. Most of the content is standard geographic information, but the text is occasionally vague to a fault. (“Small populations of First Nations and Inuit people also call Canada home”—can a million-plus people be considered “small”?). VERDICT A fine choice for introduction and basic reports.

Several of the sets in this group will have readers ready to pack their bags and travel the globe. Two series are fantastic choices for elementary schools: Gareth Stevens’s “Where on Earth? Mapping Parts of the World” and Children’s Press’s “Rookie National Parks.” Collections that serve teens may want to check out ReferencePoint’s “Growing Up Around the World.”

Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

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