Crack the Code | Technology Series Nonfiction

This season’s offerings include series that build coding, media, and digital literacy, contextualize the world, and illuminate innovations in technology that have revolutionized life.

Is there a secret code to make kids love reading? Not really, mostly because it’s not a secret! Connecting readers with the right book is one of the basic principles of librarianship, so the secret code is just to have the right kinds of books for the kids in your library. It’s also no secret that not everyone is interested in fiction, so it’s up to you, fearless library staffer, to find nonfiction that intrigues and invites readers in. This season, we’ve found some great series that build coding, media, and digital literacy, contextualize the world, and illuminate innovations in technology that have revolutionized life. And if that’s not the right thing for your readers, there are bots and cars and e-vehicles, too.



Burns, Kylie. Coding with Dinosaurs.ISBN 9798886875126.
––––. Coding with Extreme Sports.ISBN 9798886875133.
––––. Coding with Mythical Creatures.ISBN 9798886875140.
––––. Coding with Outer Space.ISBN 9798886875157.
––––. Coding with Rain Forest Animals.ISBN 9798886875164.
––––. Coding with Robotics.ISBN 9798886875171.
––––. Coding with the Paranormal.ISBN 9798886875188.
––––. Coding with Video Games.ISBN 9798886875195.
ea vol: 24p. (Adventures in Unplugged Coding). Bellwether Media/Express! Aug. 2023. Tr $26.95.
Gr 2-5–Coding and storytelling collide in this fun educational series. Burns defines coding as “…communicating with computers so they can perform tasks,” so the unplugged coding activities suggested in each book use problem-solving coding concepts, such as sequences and debugging sans computer. Different types of coding ideas help kids draw cool creations like a value-variable gnome in Coding with Mythical Creatures and a loop sequence stegosaurus in Coding with Dinosaurs. Coding with Video Games includes an imaginative story activity that uses hieroglyphics and hidden messages to help readers problem solve their way out of the mummy’s tomb. The writing is inviting and engaging, offering an interesting method of teaching coding literacy concepts without the need for any tech. For each experiment, essential equipment is listed on the first page, most of which is readily available to many readers, like paper, pencils, and rubber bands. VERDICT A welcome addition to most libraries.

Mason, Paul. Engineering.ISBN 9781642827309.
––––. Power Stations and Electricity.ISBN 9781642827330.
––––. Technology.ISBN 9781642827361.
––––. Transportation.ISBN 9781642827392.
ea vol: 32p. (Building the World). Rosen/ PowerKids. Aug. 2023. Tr $27.93.
Gr 2-5–This infographic series gives curious readers insider access to how the world around us functions. In Engineering , readers learn that engineering is the practice of designing and building useful objects, from the bridges over a river to the boats that go under and cars that drive over them. Power Stations and Electricity acknowledges the increasing energy demand, showing how nuclear power, fossil fuels, hydrodams, solar farms, and more contribute to the Earth’s energy needs (some in cleaner ways than others). Advancement is the focus of Technology , where the evolution of medical tech has lengthened life expectancy and better robot tech has made dangerous jobs safer. In each book, slice illustrations pick out interesting details that merit further explanation, accompanying the detailed text to keep readers engaged. Sure, there’s a lot happening on each page, but it’s all good! VERDICT A handy, hopeful view of the world worthy of purchase for most libraries.

Rusick, Jessica. Electric Bikes.ISBN 9781098291518.
––––. Electric Cars.ISBN 9781098291549.
––––. Electric Motorcycles.ISBN 9781098291556.
Wilken, Scott. Electric Boats.ISBN 9781098291525.
––––. Electric Buses.ISBN 9781098291532.
––––. Electric Trucks.ISBN 9781098291563.
ea vol: 32p. (It’s Electric!). Abdo/Big Buddy. Sept. 2023. Tr $34.22.
Gr 2-5–Readers interested in learning about the growing gas-alternative market will find good information packed in this slim series. Electric Bikesdescribes e-bike basics, including quick-charging lithium-ion batteries, before talking about reputable e-bike companies like Yamaha and GoCycle. E-bikes shouldn’t be confused with e-motorcycles, as readers will find out in Electric Motorcycles.E-motorcycles have almost everything that a typical motorcycle does, with much higher speeds and acceleration rates than e-bikes. In Electric Boats, readers learn that e-boats have a long way to go in terms of affordability but that many boaters are interested in the environmentally friendly models. In terms of environmental impact, electric buses, trucks, and cars can make the biggest difference, ferrying people and goods with less harmful exhaust and noise pollution. While the writing isn’t particularly exciting, it’s fine standard informational text. VERDICT Worth considering if your shelves are lacking on this topic.

Vallepur, Shalini. Gaming.ISBN 9798885099622.
––––. Information.ISBN 9798885099608.
––––. Shopping.ISBN 9798885099615.
––––. Social Media.ISBN 9798885099592.
ea vol: 24p. (Internet Issues). Bearport/Fusion. Aug. 2023. Tr $28.50
K-Gr 2–With the look and feel of a cute YouTube introductory video for youngsters, this series introduces readers to the pains and perils of being online. Gamingis more than just playing on an unconnected console as most video games can be played over the internet, so this book shares how young readers should stay safe while playing online. Assessing articles and news for bias and accuracy is discussed in Information, which includes mention of how social media can feed misinformation. Social Media itself mentions this as well, while also discussing personal safety. Keeping personal information safe is repeated in every book, an important fact that even adults need to be reminded of often. Shoppingexamines how many fall victim to scams. Many of the featured photos show diverse children and their grown-ups interacting with electronics, modeling good screentime basics. While the writing is simple, it’s grade-level appropriate and non-threatening. VERDICT A useful addition to classroom libraries.

Upper Elementary to Middle School

Bow, James. Car Technology.ISBN 9781503869813.
Ford, Jeanne Marie. Movie Technology.ISBN 9781503869844.
Hamen, Susan E. Military Technology.ISBN 9781503869837.
Havemeyer, Janie. Space Technology.ISBN 9781503869868.
––––. Sports Technology.ISBN 9781503869875.
Rea, Amy C. Computer Technology.ISBN 9781503869820.
––––. Robot and Drone Technology.ISBN 9781503869851.
––––. Video Game Technology.ISBN 9781503869882.
ea vol: 32p. (Milestones in Technology). The Child’s World/Momentum. Aug. 2023. Tr $35.64.
Gr 3-6–Readers can look at how far we’ve come in this thorough series, with each book serving as a “greatest hits” in the technological life of its subject. Car Technology includes upgrades from hand-crank combustion engines to electric starters, the addition of seat belts for safety, and anti-lock braking systems to keep cars from sliding on slick roads. Space Technology highlights the launch of Sputnik 1, the Apollo 11 mission that put men on the moon, and the Curiosity rover, the biggest to ever explore Mars. Bulleted fast facts at the beginning of each book pull key concepts from the text to the front, helping students with recall should they have to book talk or write a report on what they read. The clear, concise text doesn’t have a great narrative flow, a given considering the time line style of the series. Still, it has wide use for student researchers, so it’s worth considering in school libraries. VERDICT An additional purchase for most.

Idzikowski, Lisa. Competition Robots.ISBN 9781728476766.
––––. Military Robots.ISBN 9781728476780.
––––. Robots in the Factory.ISBN 9781728476773.
––––. Search and Rescue Robots.ISBN 9781728476803.
Sonneborn, Liz. Robots at Home.ISBN 9781728476797.
––––. Space Robots.ISBN 9781728476810.
ea vol: 32p. (Searchlight Books ™— Exploring Robotics). Lerner. Aug. 2023. Tr $30.65.
Gr 4-6–Lots of bots populate this comprehensive series. Readers who participate or are interested in FIRST Robotics Leagues will feel a sense of pride when they pick up Competition Robots—FIRST is part of a history of encouraging STEM and innovation in students. Robots in the Factory shows how engineers have used bots to take over dangerous factory jobs to reduce worker fatalities while other robots lift, carry, and haul heavy loads to keep workers from sustaining injuries. Search and rescue robots are lifesavers, too, navigating dangerous conditions where humans and dogs can’t safely go. The cover of Robots at Home features a cute robot pup, but many home bots are useful, like the Roomba vacuum and the Pria medicine dispenser. The writing is clear, concise, and roundly positive about the past and future of robotics. Report writers and robot enthusiasts will have much to appreciate here. VERDICT A useful addition to most libraries.


Upper Middle School to High School

Adams, William. Aerogels and Other Material Tech.ISBN 9780716653882.
––––. Computer Chips and Other Hardware Tech. ISBN 9780716653905.
Jackson, Tom. Smart Grids and Other Energy Tech. ISBN 9780716653929.
Spilsbury, Richard. Cubesats and Other Satellite Tech. ISBN 9780716653912.
Woolf, Alex. Artificial Intelligence Art and Other Creative Tech. ISBN 9780716653899.
––––. Synthetic Organs and Other Medical Tech.ISBN 9780716653936.
ea vol: 48p. (Cool Tech 2). World Book. Sept. 2023. Tr $21.99.
Gr 6 Up–Anyone interested in unbelievable tech will have a lot to “ooh” and “ahh” about in this phenomenal series. Readers learn that aerogels may have (allegedly) been discovered during a bet between two materials scientists, but they’re much more than a goofy contest; they insulate space suits, the Mars rover, and underwater pipes to enable greater scientific discovery. Computer chips may look tiny and insignificant, but their transformation from rooms full of transistors and wires to tiny bits no bigger than a fingertip is nothing short of mind-blowing. Synthetic organs (prosthetics, bioprinting, and tissue engineering alike) will one day allow the medical community to move away from human organ donors. The decentralized and renewable power concepts in Smart Grids and Other Energy Tech could lead to a cleaner future. Each title in this series ends with an instructional section on writing engaging nonfiction, a thoughtful inclusion in such a well-done set. VERDICT A recommended first purchase.

Currie, Stephen. Digital Literacy: What Is It and Why Does It Matter? ISBN 9781678205348.
Kallen, Stuart A. Spotting Online Scams and Fraud.ISBN 9781678205409.
Mooney, Carla. Social Media and the News.ISBN 9781678205386.
Roland, James. Recognizing Media Bias and Disinformation.ISBN 9781678205362.
ea vol: 64p. (Developing Digital and Media Literacy Skills). ReferencePoint. Sept. 2023. Tr $32.95.
Gr 6 Up–This is a series on a mission, discussing the great harm that comes with misinformation and how readers can combat it, among other things. Spotting Online Scams and Fraud shows how scammers don’t just go after adults—teens are actually more likely to fall prey, getting sucked into diet scams and catfished in romantic schemes on social media more than older generations. With the target audience of these books being teenagers, it feels odd to see phrases like “today’s youth” (Digital Literacy), but apart from formal phrasing and an overall dry, textbook tone, titles are well-researched and thorough. It’s hard to imagine any tween or teen picking these up for reasons other than report writing, so their use is self-limited. VERDICT Purchase where needed.

Lawson, Carlie. Alfa Romeo: A Legacy from Milan.ISBN 9781422248508.
––––. Bentley: The Best in Its Class.ISBN 9781422247853.
––––. Maserati: Italian Style and Performance.ISBN 9781422248515.
––––. Range Rover: The Ultimate in Luxury.ISBN 9781422247945.
––––. Rolls Royce: Innovation and Aspiration.ISBN 9781422248522.
––––. Tesla: The Feeling Is Electric.ISBN 9781422247952.
Newson, Anne. Porsche: The Ultimate Speed Machine.ISBN 9781422247938.
ea vol: 96p. (Dream Cars). National Highlights/Mason Crest. Sept. 2023. Tr $37.27.
Gr 6-9–Readers will learn all the ins and outs of the world’s most lavish, luxurious cars in this extensively researched series. Each book covers roughly the same territory, detailing the brand’s history, iconic models, and future, while including handy QR codes that link out to educational videos that supplement the text. Innovation and elegance are the name of the game for all these “Dream Cars.” Bentley has been around for over 100 years, debuting as a race car in the 1919 Le Mans. Maserati began as a racing company as well, which shows in its cars’ sleek, aerodynamic bodies. As is often the case with the longer Mason Crest books, the writing begins to drag and feel repetitive, as if they’re writing to hit a page count needed for primary source length requirements. VERDICT A useful addition if your school has a lot of gearheads.


“Adventures in Unplugged Coding” (Bellwether) has a unique, computer-free approach to coding literacy that is fun and functional, especially for kids who might not have an internet-connected device at home. “Internet Issues” (Bearport) speaks to the youngest readers about how to stay safe online. “Exploring Robotics” (Lerner) and “Building the World” (Rosen) will encourage burgeoning engineers to pursue their STEM dreams. “Cool Tech 2” (World Book) has some mind-blowing innovations that will fascinate readers, hopefully inspiring them to think outside the box like the scientists within the books’ pages. With plenty of additional purchase options to consider based on your student population and collection needs, you aren’t lacking for great selections this season.



Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing