Coding Leads the Way: 10 Nonfiction Career Series

This season’s best sets are tech-focused.

Such varied approaches to the world of work, it seems hardly fair to classify these series together! Some tie directly to curricular needs for community jobs or STEM-related pursuits, while others are interdisciplinary as they delve into scientific and historical professions. Some may inspire readers to unfamiliar occupations, and others have a laser focus on transferable skills or the latest technology. All in all, there is a wonderful mix of series for future job seekers, and general audiences, too.


Boritzke, Lauren. Working in Technology. ISBN 9781632354501.

Burling, Alexis. Working in Music. ISBN 9781632354471.

––––. Working in Writing. ISBN 9781632354518.

Ewing, Susan M. Working with Animals. ISBN 9781632354525.

Hayes, Vicki C. Working in Engineering. ISBN 9781632354440.

Idzikowski, Lisa. Working in Science. ISBN 9781632354488.

Kistler, Marguerite A. Working in Education. ISBN 9781632354433.

Miller, Mirella S. Working in Fashion. ISBN 9781632354457.

Signa Ivy, Darlene. Working in Sports. ISBN 9781632354495.

Zuchora-Walske, Christine. Working in Math. ISBN 9781632354464.

ea vol: 32p. (Career Files). further reading. glossary. index. photos. 12 Story Library. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $31.35.

Gr 3-6 –Right away these titles apply real-life connections to the fields and dispel generalizations by featuring a wide variety of jobs, from air traffic controllers to animators to forensic scientists. Each title is a cover-to-cover read, but chapter headings organize work by types rather than specific jobs. In Sports and Music, the glamour of pro athletes and pop stars is acknowledged but downplayed to focus on the myriad support positions such as coaches, trainers, agents, composers, and sound engineers. Education includes several types of teachers and paraprofessionals, emphasizing technology and STEM skills. One section links job function with desirable traits, while “Think About It” asks readers to reflect on whether this work fits their personality. The narrative text winds around captioned photos, numerical data, and sidebars. Salary, training, and outlook appear in grayscale boxes throughout, and a QR code in the back links to ebooks, content feeds, videos, graphics, and more. VERDICT A sizable variety, well suited for upper-elementary students perusing a field of interest.

Bowman, Chris. Construction Workers. ISBN 9781626177437.

––––. Firefighters. ISBN 9781626177468.

Leaf, Christina. Doctors. ISBN 9781626177451.

––––. Mail Carriers. ISBN 9781626177475.

––––. Nurses. ISBN 9781626177482.

––––. Police Officers. ISBN 9781626177499.

––––. Teachers. ISBN 9781626177505.

––––. Veterinarians. ISBN 9781626177512.

Schuh, Mari. Bus Drivers. ISBN 9781626177420.

––––. Dentists. ISBN 9781626177444.

ea vol: 24p. (Community Helpers). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bellwether. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $25.95.

K-Gr 3 –Dramatic opening scenarios will hook readers into learning about community helpers. Photos depict workers employed in typical settings, wearing job-related garb, or using tools of the trade that are also singled out and labeled in a “gear” box. An emphasis on caring and safety, such as how teachers must be patient, be good problem-solvers, and “keep misbehaving students on task,” is a running theme throughout. Large and colorful images of adults interacting with children reflect a number of races, genders, and religions, including a nurse wearing a hijab. In each book, the narrative is formatted on the left side of the page and uses predictable sentence patterns. Vocabulary is in bold type, and arrows point to the word represented in the photo to reinforce context. The index in each book is lacking; one includes children and students as entries. Concepts such as how nurses track how medicine changes their patients’ health exemplifies a higher level of thinking than most for this audience. VERDICT Thoughtful presentations for elementary schoolers.

Budd, Anitra. Disgusting Jobs During the Civil War: The Down and Dirty Details. ISBN 9781543503678.

Summers, Jacque. Disgusting Jobs in Modern America: The Down and Dirty Details. ISBN 9781543503661.

Yasuda, Anita. Disgusting Jobs in Colonial America: The Down and Dirty Details. ISBN 9781543503692.

––––. Disgusting Jobs on the American Frontier: The Down and Dirty Details. ISBN 9781543503685.

ea vol: 32p. (Disgusting Jobs in History). further reading. glossary. index. photos. reprods. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $27.32.

Gr 3-6 –Gross and gory details have long been synonymous with middle grade reading preferences, and this series has plenty of them. The text succeeds in highlighting the limited understanding that people in the past had of the connection between health and sanitation. Contemporaneous paintings, maps, illustrations, and primary source material from diaries, letters, and historical documents help re-create period scenes, but be aware there are also close-up photos of poop, roadkill, and a gangrenous foot. The language is generally descriptive, but the tone is clinical. However, the text lacks substance and sensitivity in Colonial America when describing how enslaved people were forced to dye cloth with indigo: “Slaves did not have much time off,” “Most slaves died at a younger age than white colonists.” VERDICT­ Robust collections should select as needed.

Budd, Anitra. How to Read a Recipe. ISBN 9781503823303.

Conley, Kate. How to Read Calendars and Clocks. ISBN 9781503823358.

––––. How to Read Nutrition Labels. ISBN 9781503823334.

Hamby, Rachel. How to Read Graphs. ISBN 9781503823310.

Ipcizade, Catherine. How to Read Measurements. ISBN 9781503823327.

Kulz, George Anthony. How to Read Scratch Computer Code. ISBN 9781503823341.

Simons, Lisa M. Bolt. How to Read a Map. ISBN 9781503823280.

––––. How to Read a Nonfiction Book. ISBN 9781503823297.

ea vol: 24p. (Understanding the Basics). charts. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. The Child’s World. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $27.07.

Gr 1-3 –These guides develop skill sets that are easily transferable to schoolwork, home life, and future jobs. In Calendars and Clocks, digital takes a backseat to analog for a truly introductory lesson about units of time using a familiar clockface with three hands. The back-to-basics focus covers a great deal of terminology, and the individual authors are consistent in offering a rigorous level of detail. Nutrition Labels, for example, not only explains what protein, calcium, fat, and carbs are, but matches photos of common food sources and how the body uses them to best advantage. Scratch Computer Code will walk junior techies through step-by-step screenshots of sprites and blocks. Color-coded vocabulary in text matches glossary colors, and readers are quizzed at the end as a self-check for understanding. VERDICT Interdisciplinary and timeless enough to ensure a long shelf life. A fine addition to early nonfiction collections.

Colich, Abby. CIA Agents. ISBN 9781 543501421.

––––. FBI Agents. ISBN 9781543501414.

––––. Secret Service Agents. ISBN 9781543501438.

––––. U.S. Marshals. ISBN 9781543501407.

ea vol: 32p. (U.S. Federal Agents). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 1-3 –There is a glamorous aspect to the photos in this series, featuring perfectly modeled agents in aviator sunglasses. In addition, engaging hooks such as “You use a fake name. You must get others to tell you secrets. You are a CIA officer” will have readers diving right in. However, once they begin reading, students will find that fighting crime on a typical day is a balance of excitement and tedium, with such additional tasks as working on computers, doing background checks, and preventing identity theft. Job descriptions are kept short and sweet: U.S. marshals “move prisoners” and “keep witnesses safe.” Vocabulary, such as polygraph and background check, is in bold and defined in a color-blocked segment at the bottom of pages. Stock photos show agents in uniform engaged in a variety of tasks, though some of the images seem dated or are just window-dressing shots of government buildings. ­VERDICT Crime-fighting never ceases to be of interest to elementary readers, and this set is as informative as it is appealing.

Less, Emma. Chefs. ISBN 9781681512907.

––––. Construction Workers. ISBN 9781681512914.

––––. Dentists. ISBN 9781681512921.

––––. Doctors. ISBN 9781681512938.

––––. Farmers. ISBN 9781681512945.

––––. Firefighters. ISBN 9781681512952.

––––. Librarians. ISBN 9781681512969.

––––. Mechanics. ISBN 9781681513003.

––––. Nurses. ISBN 9781681512976.

––––. Police Officers. ISBN 9781681512983.

––––. Teachers. ISBN 9781681512990.

––––. Veterinarians. ISBN 9781681513010.

ea vol: 24p. (Real-life Superheroes). photos. Amicus. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $25.65.

PreS-Gr 2 –Not all heroes wear capes, and, in this series, they wear firefighter helmets or dental masks. Photos of children engaging with a diverse group of smiling professionals, such as the nurse gently giving Carlos a shot or the farmer showing Ann his vegetable crop, will resonate with the audience. However, the crisp and uncluttered photos at times seem outmoded and stereotypical, such as showing a farmer milking cows by hand, a female librarian keeping shelves neat, and a mechanic with greasy hands. Short declarative sentences like “Jan wants to be a chef. What does a chef do?” allow beginning readers to follow along or tackle the text independently. Instead of blueprints, the construction worker looks at “plans,” and instead of a refrigerator, a chef puts food in a “cold room.” VERDICT Simplified by design to be accessible to the youngest of readers. Consider for large collections.

Miller, Derek L. Completing Tasks: Using Algorithms. ISBN 9781502629852.

––––. Group Planning, Creating, and Testing: Programming Together. ISBN 9781502629937.

––––. Information and Action: Using Variables. ISBN 9781502629975.

Schmermund, Elizabeth. Breaking Down Tasks: Using Decomposition. ISBN 9781502629784.

––––. Combining Tasks: Using Composition. ISBN 9781502632098.

––––. Following Instructions: Using Control. ISBN 9781502629890.

ea vol: 32p. (Everyday Coding). diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 3-6 –Coding language can be daunting, and this series aims to relate those fundamental concepts to a youngster’s limited life experience. In Breaking Down Tasks, a seemingly difficult coding term such as decomposition is likened to a birthday cake recipe, which breaks down “something that is assembled into smaller parts.” More analogies (cleaning a bedroom, putting a puzzle together) help reinforce concepts as the narrative makes a seamless transition to coding function. In Algorithms, readers are asked to think carefully about the sequences of instructions in terms of steps in getting ready for school or in telling a robot to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A discussion of this exercise illustrates how “people would use common sense,” but computers “need more specific commands.” The titles shine in repeating and reinforcing vocabulary and concepts with new examples, and in scaffolding information. Color photos of elementary-age children, archival black-and-white images, color-blocked sidebars, and diagrams provide visual support in an uncluttered manner. VERDICT A must-have set for coding newbies.

Murray, Laura K. Animal Wrangler. ISBN 9781608189212.

––––. Camping Guide. ISBN 9781608189229.

––––. Cave Explorer. ISBN 9781608189236.

––––. Deep-Sea Fisher. ISBN 9781608189243.

––––. Scuba Diver. ISBN 9781608189250.

––––. Wildland Firefighter. ISBN 9781608189267.

ea vol: 24p. (Wild Jobs). glossary. photos. Creative Education. Feb. 2018. lib. ed. $29. 95.

Gr 1-3 –Engaging preludes and stunning photographs will entice readers to explore these intriguing jobs. (“The night air is crisp. But you stay warm inside your soft sleeping bag. A wolf howls… a lone moose bellows.”) In Scuba Diver, there is work for scientists who “study the underworld,” as well as construction workers, rescue teams, and mapping experts. While the photos often depict beautiful settings, the jobs are not romanticized and safety training is emphasized. Vocabulary words are in a contrasting color and defined in the glossary, but matching the text to the photos provides a good deal of context. Titles don’t shy away from technical terms, such as stalactites (hanging rock formations), prescribed burns (planned fires), or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Images include relevant tools and clothing needed for work tasks. At the end, readers can imagine themselves doing the job by responding to five questions related to the text. Each title mentions a noted person in the field, such as Deanne Shulman, who, in 1981, became the first woman smokejumper. VERDICT A visual delight with wide appeal for outdoorsy types and independent readers.

Olson, Elsie. Exploring Earthquakes: Seismologists at Work! ISBN 9781532112294.

––––. Exploring Fossils: Paleontologists at Work! ISBN 9781532112300.

––––. Exploring Minerals: Mineralogists at Work! ISBN 9781532112317.

––––. Exploring the Rock Cycle: Petrologists at Work! ISBN 9781532112324.

––––. Exploring Volcanoes: Volcanologists at Work! ISBN 9781532112331.

––––. Exploring Weather: Meteorologists at Work! ISBN 9781532112348.

ea vol: 24p. (Earth Detectives). glossary. photos. ABDO. Dec. 2017. lib. ed. $25.65.

Gr 2-5 –Earth science students may be drawn to geological fields that offer outdoor exploration as well as laboratory study. “Think about it” segments ask readers if they’ve ever found a fossil, felt an earthquake, or examined the local climate, to initiate a connection to their own environments. A circular portrait of a noted person in the field is on each cover, putting a human face on what might otherwise be considered obscure work. In the 1800s, Mary Anning was a fossil collector who discovered an Ichthyosaur. Volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, died tragically in 1991 while filming a volcanic eruption in Japan. A map of the location of active volcanoes is one of many informative visuals. The interesting biographical asides are balanced with modern developments, such as how fossils are now scanned with lasers and 3-D printed by paleontologists. A “tool kit” section shows pictures of a tiltmeter, thermal imaging camera, and petrographic microscope, while scientific concepts such as density and radioactivity are explained best in the glossary. VERDICT A broader and more historical treatment of earth scientists at work. Large STEM collections will want to consider.

Middle to High School

Boozarjomehri, Keon Aristech. 3D Printing at School and Makerspaces. ISBN 9781502631480.

Chow-Miller, Ian. How Does 3D Printing Work? ISBN 9781502631565.

Degnan, Michael. 3D Printing Techniques and Processes. ISBN 9781502631503.

Freedman, Jeri. Future Uses and Possibilities of 3D Printing. ISBN 9781502631541.

Thiel, Kristin. Applications for 3D Printing. ISBN 9781502631527.

Waldman, Loretta. 3D Materials and Construction Possibilities. ISBN 9781502631466.

ea vol: 128p. (Project Learning with 3D Printing). glossary. index. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $45.64.

Gr 9 Up –Noting that our world is “facing changes comparable to the Industrial Revolution of the 1700s–1800s,” this series keys in on the ways 3-D printing is influencing design and manufacturing, how job training is changing, and how society is benefiting from this technology. Medical applications include using biological materials to create models of organs for doctors to practice surgical procedures, and artificial replacements for coral reefs are solving ocean habitat deterioration. The strength of the series is in the contributors, such as Peg Robinson, who shares detailed knowledge of materials, especially plastics, metals, and biodegradable options, and Ian Chow-Miller, a middle school robotics teacher whose personal experience and tips for assembling and operating 3-D printers for educational purposes make it accessible to teachers and students. Other titles focus on research and development, business, art and design, and more. The authors use an engaging and conversational tone, and thoughtfully placed photos, charts, and color-blocked vocabulary boxes also aid comprehension. A generous number of appended resources enlarges this collection’s contribution to one’s knowledge base. VERDICT Make room for this seminal guide for high school technology teachers and students.

The tagline for this season’s collection is variety. Creative Education’s “Wild Jobs” is both an inspiring outdoor career guide as well as a beautifully photographed independent read. Cavendish Square’s “Everyday Coding” will appeal to hands-on learners and students who want to dabble in an interest, now. Cavendish Square’s “Project Learning with 3D Printing” is also a standout for emphasizing skills, such as evaluating, applying, and creating, and providing the how-to for this hot technology.

Vicki Reutter, State University of New York at Cortland

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