Spark Creativity | Arts & Recreation Series Nonfiction

The newest titles in arts and recreation use artists, food, and puzzles to engage readers and help them connect educational concepts with real-world practices.

The newest titles in arts and recreation use artists, food, and puzzles to engage readers and help them connect educational concepts with real world practice. Introducing readers to historical artists, serious and fun hobbies, experiments, and hands-on ­activities, these series combine science, art, ­history, fun toys, and topography to encourage learning and inspire recreation. Every title offers colorful photos or illustrations to help readers relate to the topic and correspond with age-appropriate text. All of the subsequent titles encourage participating in supplemental activities provided along with scientific thinking, and following directions correctly, sometimes with supervision. The following 12 series offer readers new experiences, either through armchair adventure or firsthand entertainment.



Adelman, Beth. Orcas. ISBN 9781503858169.
Dinaberg, Leslie. Spider Life. ISBN 9781503858190.
Fitzpatrick, Jim. Skateboard Stars. ISBN 9781503858220.
Gigliotti, Jim. Knight Life. ISBN 9781503858237.
––––. Smokejumpers. ISBN 9781503858183.
Grace, N.B. UFO Mysteries. ISBN 9781503858145.
Kelley, K.C. Deadly Dinos. ISBN 9781503858244.
Schoenherr, Charles. Soccer Superstars. ISBN 9781503858206.
Shulman, Mark. Football Superstars. ISBN 9781503858152.
Teitelbaum, Michael. Famous Ghosts. ISBN 9781503858138.
––––. Pirate Life. ISBN 9781503858213.
Woods, Bob. Shark Encounters. ISBN 9781503858176.
ea vol: 32p. (Reading Rocks!). The Child’s World/Stride. Aug. 2022. Tr. $32.79.
Gr 3-4 –Series that uses various engaging topics to encourage reading. Starting with a table of contents, titles are about three chapters long with vocabulary words in bold and in another color. A few paragraphs of text are paired with full page captioned photos or graphics. Coverage includes the history of the topic, current research and technology, the future of the topic, and basic safety, such as the slim odds of a shark encounter, but taking smart precautions when visiting the beach in Shark Encounters. Back matter has a glossary, a “Think About It” question section, how to find out more, and an index. While some of the titles may include topics that could be a little creepy for younger readers, the text breaks down each topic using concrete information. Titles range from real world topics, like sharks and soccer superstars to otherworldly ones such as ghosts and aliens. VERDICT An engaging series to help encourage reluctant readers on a wide range of topics.

Cella, Clara. Candy. ISBN 9781629209449.
––––. Cookies. ISBN 9781629209425.
––––. Cupcakes. ISBN 9781629209418.
––––. Ice Cream. ISBN 9781629209432.
ea vol: 24p. (Sweet Life). Full Tilt. Aug. 2022. Tr. $25.65.
Gr 2-4 –Series about types of food and how they are made. Each title begins with a table of contents and has about three chapters each. Color photos, sometimes captioned, accompany short paragraphs along with ­corresponding graphics, and vocabulary words in bold and in another color. Ingredients of each topic and how the food is produced is shown along with the food’s history, well-known food products like Oreos, and how you can find the items in the store. Each title has a recipe the reader can follow with a list of ingredients and step-by-step ­instructions followed by a fun facts page and quiz with answers. The back matter includes a glossary, read more, and index. While the text is simple, it covers a lot of information in a brief format and still remains engaging. VERDICT A quick read about everyday sweet treats that beginning readers can try making with help and supervision.

Eason, Sarah. Cooking with Chef Hedgehog. ISBN  979888509015.
––––. Cooking with Chef Llama. ISBN  979888509016.
––––. Cooking with Chef Narwhal. ISBN  9798885090179.
––––. Cooking with Chef Octopus. ISBN : 9798885090186.
––––. Cooking with Chef Shark. ISBN  9798885090193.
––––. Cooking with Chef Sloth. ISBN  9798885090209.
ea vol: 24p. (Animal Chefs). Bearport/Create! Books. Aug. 2022. Tr. $26.99.
K-Gr 2 –This series combines cooking, food styling, and character animals to help readers successfully make a recipe all while learning a little more about their favorite animal. A table of contents starts showing short sections between two-to-four pages long and six recipes per book. Animated character animals based on the title topic is the chef instructing readers about the recipes and about the animal, such as Chef Llama saying: “I’m a herbivore...I eat fruit as treat. Make your own treat with these fruit skewers that look like flowers,” while vocabulary words are in bold. Bullet point information in order of operation, is given, as with any recipe, along with an ingredient and equipment list followed by step-by-step instructions with example pictures for each step. A single “all about” page gives facts about the real animal using a short paragraph and real photos accompanied by bubble facts. The back matter includes a glossary, index, read more, and learn more online. While the format is simple and clearly meant for younger readers, it is recognizable and could be helpful for combining and learning new skills with adult supervision. VERDICT A fun way to combine creativity, skills, and learning for beginning readers.

Hansen, Susan Ahmadi. All Kinds of Maps. ISBN 9781666349641.
––––. How to Use Maps. ISBN 9781666349658.
––––. Making Your Own Maps. ISBN 9781666349627.
––––. Map Symbols, Keys, and Scales. ISBN 9781666349634.
ea vol: 24p. (On the Map). Capstone/Pebble. Aug. 2022. Tr. $27.99.
Gr 2-4 –The series is about maps, how they are created, and how to read and use them successfully. A table of contents followed by what a map is, why it is used, and the importance of knowing the symbols, keys, and scale. Vocabulary words are in bold in short paragraphs of text that are accompanied by a color picture. The broad spectrum of maps are shown and described, such as physical, political, road, and how maps can be presented: either paper, electronic/­digital, and globe. A map activity is in each title that has readers answer questions by using a map. The back matter includes a glossary, reading more/internet sites, and an index. While the series is very specific, it offers real world skill building and more understanding for other subjects, like history or science that use maps to impart more information. ­VERDICT A comprehensive guide for elementary readers about every aspect of maps.

Hilderbrand, Michelle. Can You Make a Frying Pan Out of Paper? ISBN 9781666350890.
––––. Can You Make a Window Out of Stone? ISBN 9781666350920.
Katz, Susan B. Can You Make a Book Out of Metal? ISBN 9781666350876.
––––. Can You Make a Coat Out of Wood? ISBN 9781666350883.
––––. Can You Make a Pillow Out of Glass? ISBN 9781666350906.
––––. Can You Make a Toaster Out of Plastic? ISBN 9781666350913.
ea vol: 24p. (Material Choices). Capstone/Pebble. Aug. 2022. Tr. $27.99.
Gr 2-4 –A series that describes materials and natural resources and uses creativity to show how items are made. A sectioned table of contents follows short, easy paragraphs with bolded vocabulary paired with color captioned photos. Each title gives a brief introduction about how something could be made, (Can You Make A Frying Pan Out of Paper?), followed by the history of the resource, the various types, how it is used, and then a question on whether the title of the series is possible. An activity with the resource, such as growing a plant in a glass jar, (Can You Make A Pillow Out of Glass?) is included. The back matter includes a glossary, read more, internet sites, and an index. While the titles may be misleading at first, it helps grab the attention of readers to learn how a material is made and used in our everyday lives. VERDICT For beginning readers who want to know how common items are made; potentially good for a STEAM learning environment.

Polinsky, Paige V. Board Games. ISBN 9781644877692.
––––. Super Soakers. ISBN 9781644877708.
––––. Toy Cars. ISBN 9781644877715.
––––. Transformers. ISBN 9781644877722.
ea vol: 24p. (Favorite Toys). Bellwether/Epic. Aug. 2022. Tr. $26.95.
Gr 1-3 –The series focuses on popular toys today. Beginning with a table of contents showing that each section varies in length, the pages are full color using graphics and pictures. Titles open with a scene showing how the toy is used followed by the history of the toy and how it is used today. Using short paragraphs on contrasting blocks of color, facts on bubbles, and picture captions, the information is quick and easy to understand. Various versions of the toy are shown along with a quick timeline, how the toy is used today, such as board gaming is streamed online, and festivals or conventions that happen based on the toy. While not the most comprehensive, these titles are good at connecting readers to toys from past to the present, which may help engage reluctant readers. The back matter includes a glossary, a “to learn more” page, and an index. VERDICT A quick read for beginners who enjoy different toys and games.

Van Oosbree, Ruthie & Lauren Kukla. Acrostic Poems. ISBN 9781532198915.
––––. Cinquain Poems. ISBN 9781532198922.
––––. Free Verse Poems. ISBN 9781532198939.
––––. Haiku Poems. ISBN 9781532198946.
––––. Limerick Poems. ISBN 9781532198953.
––––. Quatrain Poems. ISBN 9781532198960.
ea vol: 32p. (Poetry Power). ABDO/Big Buddy Books. Sept. 2022. Tr. $31.36.
Gr 2-4 –This series focuses on different forms of poetry while giving examples based on specific topics. Starting with a table of contents that shows short sections of varying length and followed by the type of poem, its history, and how the form is used, quoting and citing the authors, such as lines 1-6 of Lewis Carroll’s “Acrostic” poem in Acrostic Poems. Each subject used for the specific type of poem is broken down to show how to research and use creativity to write a new poem. While each section has an example poem, graphics throughout, such as “Tips & Tricks” help guide readers in writing their poem by supplying ideas to the reader. Short paragraphs accompany colorful pictures of a diverse group of children writing and experiencing poetry. The final section discusses how each poetry style is meant to be shared, verbally, ­visually, etc. and that readers should always ask for permission from a caregiver about posting a poem on social media. Although the titles in this series are meant for younger readers, the series breaks down poetry styles in an easy way to spark creativity. The back matter includes a glossary, online resources, and index. ­VERDICT A simple breakdown of poetry forms for beginning readers and writers.

Wilberforce, Bert. Fun with Circles. ISBN 9781538385395.
––––. Fun with Diamonds. ISBN 9781538385432.
––––. Fun with Ovals. ISBN 9781538385470.
––––. Fun with Rectangles. ISBN 9781538385517.
––––. Fun with Squares. ISBN 9781538385555.
––––. Fun with Triangles. ISBN 9781538385593.
ea vol: 24p. (Fun with Shapes). Rosen/PowerKids Press. Aug. 2022. Tr. $24.60.
PreS-K –Series describes common shapes, such as squares, triangles, and diamonds that can be found in the world for beginning readers. A full page picture of the shape corresponds with one sentence pages. Finding everyday objects that are the topic shape, sometimes outlined and captioned, readers learn to look for the shape everywhere. At the beginning of every title the book starts with “Let’s look for circles,” and proceeds to show a page with multiple shapes and with the title shape highlighted. Each title ends with a question, such as: “Do you see diamonds?” and provides everyday examples of the shape. While older readers will find the text easy, the series clearly establishes each shape and connects it to daily life. Paired with clear color photographs, the simple text and sentences are good for beginning learners and readers.VERDICT: A simple, short read for beginners learning about shapes.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Borgert-Spaniol, Megan. Fall Crafts Across Cultures. ISBN 9781666334586.
––––. Spring Crafts Across Cultures. ISBN 9781666334630.
––––. Summer Crafts Across Cultures. ISBN 9781666334531.
––––. Winter Crafts Across Cultures. ISBN 9781666334487.
ea vol: 32p. (Seasonal Crafts Across Cultures). Capstone/Capstone Press. Aug. 2022. Tr. $31.99.
Gr 2-5 –A creative series that focuses on crafts across different cultures and the four seasons. A table of contents shows each section is about two pages long. Color blocked pages with contrasting color text accompanies pictures, with fun fact bubbles that ­appear throughout: “Bissap is a hibiscus drink popular in the West African country Senegal.” Each title starts with what season is being discussed followed by basic supplies and crafting tips. Each title includes 12 crafts that correspond with the season, whether holiday, monthly observance, or historical day of remembrance. A short description of the celebration is given, why the craft was chosen, and then the craft instructions with pictures examples are shown. The back matter only includes reading more and internet sites. While more information about the cultural celebration would be ­appriciated, the craft is a fun connection to something that happens around the globe. VERDICT A supplement to other texts about historical, religious, and cultural events.

O’Daly, Anne. Amazing Activities with Electricity and Magnetism. ISBN 9781978529649.
––––. Amazing Activities with Force and Motion. ISBN 9781978529724.
––––. Amazing Activities with Heat and Energy. ISBN 9781978529762.
––––. Amazing Activities with Light and Color. ISBN 9781978529809.
––––. Amazing Activities with Sound and Hearing. ISBN 9781978529687.
––––. Amazing Activities with Weather and Climate. ISBN 9781978529847.
ea vol: 32p. (Super STEM Activities). Rosen/Enslow Publishing. Aug. 2022. Tr. $26.27.
Gr 4-8 –A STEM series that combines topics with activities. A table of contents shows each section is about two pages long. Color blocked pages with text that corresponds with depictions relevant topic. “Think about Scientist” sections show how information should be combined with experiments to understand a subject more deeply. Each ­title includes approximately a dozen projects, with detailed instructions and which STEM concepts are being used, including refraction lenses, and light waves in the “Fishbowl Lens” experiment. Each experiment has questions at the beginning, what materials are needed, tips, the science behind the experiment, and points of caution if applicable. Although some realistic photographs of the experiments and projects would have been helpful, the illustrations make the information and activity non-intimidating. Back matter includes a glossary, further resources, and index. VERDICT A supplemental STEM series that combines topic information with a hands-on experiment.


Upper Middle School to High School

Crest, Mason. Ansel Adams. ISBN 9781422246337.
––––. Claude Monet. ISBN 9781422246405.
––––. Edgar Degas. ISBN 9781422246375.
––––. Frank Lloyd Wright. ISBN 9781422246450.
––––. The Hudson River School. ISBN 9781422246429.
––––. John James Audubon. ISBN 9781422246344.
––––. Leonardo Da Vinci. ISBN 9781422246382.
––––. Mary Cassatt. ISBN 9781422246351.
––––. Michelangelo. ISBN 9781422246399.
––––. Paul Cézanne. ISBN 9781422246368.
––––. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. ISBN 9781422246412.
––––. The Pre-Raphaelites. ISBN 9781422246436.
––––. Vincent van Gogh. ISBN 9781422246443.
ea vol: 96p. (Masters of Art). National Highlights/Mason Crest. Aug. 2022. Tr. $26.95.
Gr 9 Up –A biography series that details famous artists in history, including different schools of art styles. A quick, almost unnecessary, table of contents starts each title followed by long paragraphs that accompany artwork done by the artist. Each picture or work is given a plate number, captioned, dated, the materials used are listed followed by the meaning or what the art represents is in italics. Descriptions of the style of work and the artists are thorough and includes photos of their studios or work spaces. The back matter includes a glossary of key terms, index, and list of plates. Although the art is generally in chronological order, it would have been nice to visually see a separate timeline of the artists’ lives and/or their works. Although artists, like Mary Cassatt, are noted to be rebels against gender roles: “She insisted on following the normal course undertaken by her male colleagues…”, it should be noted that there is little other diversity in the artists lineup. VERDICT An overall detailed series of North American and European art and artists for older readers.

Wood, Alix. The Engine Room: Solve Your Way Out! ISBN 9781538277270.
––––. The Math Maze: Solve Your Way Out! ISBN 9781538277355.
Wood, Kevin. The Artist’s Cabin: Solve Your Way Out! ISBN 9781538277195.
––––. The Empty Science Lab: Solve Your Way Out! ISBN 9781538277232.
––––. The Hacker’s Hideout: Solve Your Way Out! ISBN 9781538277317.
ea vol: 32p. (Escape!). Rosen/Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2022. Tr. $27.60.
Gr 7-10 –A series that uses interactive STEAM puzzles to escape a fictional place. An animated style is used for the setting, clues, and puzzles, “The only exit appears to be the door you came through, which has now clicked shut,” while paragraphs and notes throughout are used to relay information. The story takes readers to each setting to gather clues that can be referred back to; each level passes leads to the next and can connect to past levels. Each title has a hints page followed by an answers page. Topics range from art to hacking and everything in between using STEAM practices. While the interactive puzzles may be difficult to do for some, especially alone, the activities are reminiscent of escape rooms and mystery games, which may help bring educational subjects to life. ­ VERDICT Supplemental series that combines school subjects with practical use through STEAM puzzles that could be done alone or with a group.

The series above offer a wide-range of topics readers of all ages could be interested in. From Impressionist painters to successfully testing an experiment, readers can see either through the text or through practical application that learning can happen in various forms. For reluctant readers who may enjoy engaging topics like ghost explorations or shark encounters “Reading Rocks” (The Child’s World) or “Favorite Toys” (Bellwether) would be a good choice for younger readers who want to know more about popular toys they may play with often. Many series focus handson activities, such as “Animal Chefs” (Bearport), “Sweet Life” (Full Tilt), “Poetry Power” (ABDO), and “On the Map” (Capstone) for younger readers, while “Material Choices” (Capstone), “Escape!” (Rosen), and “Super STEM Activities” (Rosen) focus on using variations of science, technology, engineering, art, and math to combine what has been taught at school with firsthand experiments. Some of the recreational fun connects culture and learning, like “Seasonal Crafts Across ­Cultures” (Capstone) and other series opt for a more traditional way of marking the importance of artwork as in “Masters of Art” (National Highlights). The above titles provide a ­variety of educational material matched with entertainment for all reading levels.

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