Visions, Past and Present: World History | Series Nonfiction

An exploration of refugees from Crabtree; profiles of rabble-rousing women from Enslow.

1704SMS-WorldHistory-CVsVisionary is a word we often use to describe people who are able to see a future that others miss, or the plans, ideas, and achievements that create positive change. Some of the sets in this group are about such individuals: inspiring political leaders, audacious military commanders, and women who saw and seized opportunities to escape narrow societal confines. Others tell readers about innovative technology and inventions: wonders from the ancient world to our current, digitally connected globe.


Adobe Shelters to Steel Skyscrapers: A Timeline of Building. ISBN 9780716635406.

––––. Counting Pebbles to Writing Code: A Timeline of Mathematics and Computers. ISBN 9780716635413.

––––. Foraging to Supermarkets: A Timeline of Food. ISBN 9780716635475.

––––. Hieroglyphics to Hypertext: A Timeline of the Written Word. ISBN 9780716635468.

––––. Leeches to Lasers: A Timeline of Medicine. ISBN 9780716635420.

––––. Smoke Signals to Smartphones: A Timeline of Long-Distance Communication. ISBN 9780716635437.

––––. Stargazing to Space Travel: A Timeline of Space Exploration. ISBN 9780716635451.

––––. Wooden Spears to Military Drones: A Timeline of Warfare. ISBN 9780716635444.

ea vol: 42p. (A Timeline Of…). chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. World Book. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $22.50.

Gr 3-5 –Time line synopses of topics begin with single-page introductions, followed by eight sections that cover a historical era, with significantly more attention to the ancient world and early developments than the recent past and present. Some events are simply noted; others merit an explanatory paragraph or two per page, paired with a small illustration, such as period art, portraits, or photos of artifacts and technology. Browsers may leaf through these books and learn a fact or two, but they won’t find enough information to satisfy their curiosity or write reports. VERDICT Supplemental introductions for large collections.

Chambers, Catherine. An Emperor’s Guide. ISBN 9781512415513; ISBN 9781512430714.

––––. A King’s Guide. ISBN 9781512415506; ISBN 9781512430721.

––––. A Pharaoh’s Guide. ISBN 9781512415490; ISBN 9781512430738.

––––. A Shogun’s Guide. ISBN 9781 512415520; ISBN 9781512430745.

ea vol: illus. by Ryan Pentney. 32p. (How-To Guides for Fiendish Rulers). ebook available. glossary. index. Hungry Tomato. Mar. 2017. lib. ed. $26.65. pap. $7.99.

Gr 3-6 –The “fiendish” rulers in this set find themselves near death, and instruct their courtiers to record their “rules” for posterity. Their instructions are lengthy paragraphs of standard-content history, with the associated “rule” highlighted in uppercase letters. Topics include directions for acquiring and holding power; carrying out myriad governmental, social, religious, and military responsibilities; and using force or favors to maintain relationships with subjects. However, caricature- and cartoon-style drawings of an unsmiling king and unhappy subjects lack visual appeal, though the humorous and slightly sarcastic dialogue and thought bubbles are entertaining and the set’s best feature. VERDICT Though students may gravitate toward this series, there’s just not enough truly fiendish information to keep their attention.

Hardyman, Robyn. Bridges. ISBN 9781 499430912.

Snedden, Robert. Castles and Fortresses. ISBN 9781499430950.

––––. Railroads. ISBN 9781499430998.

––––. Roads. ISBN 9781499431032.

––––. Skyscrapers. ISBN 9781499431070.

––––. Tunnels. ISBN 9781499431117.

ea vol: 32p. (Engineering Eurekas). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $26.25.

Gr 4-6 –These histories of structural engineering begin with the earliest known examples, some dating to prehistory, and then describe how visionary engineers have improved them to meet the needs of their times. Explanations of concepts, usually illustrated and labeled, are easily understood. Captioned photos of engineering firsts show additional examples, and “Future Eurekas” sidebars speculate on possible developments and advances. The large centerpiece photos of each spread are disappointing due to the digital alterations that make them look like drawings, obscuring details and reducing visual appeal. There are many existing books about structures, but this set has enough historical and technical information to support reports. VERDICT Solid secondary purchase.

Owens, Ruth. Ghost Ship: The Pharaoh’s Buried Vessel. ISBN 9781684020270.

––––. Tomb Robbers: Stolen Treasures. ISBN 9781684020263.

––––. The Great Pyramid: Palace for the Dead. ISBN 9781684020232.

––––. King Tut: The Hidden Tomb. ISBN 9781684020225.

––––. The Sphinx: A 4,000 Year Old Riddle. ISBN 9781684020256.

––––. The Valley of the Golden Mummies: A Giant Cemetery. ISBN 9781684020249.

ea vol: 32p. (Egypt’s Ancient Secrets). diag. ebook available. further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. photos. Bearport. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $26.60.

Gr 4-6 –The “secrets” of ancient Egypt are revealed through visits to archaeological excavations and analysis of what they reveal about Egyptian civilization. Spreads have several paragraphs of text, with sufficient background and detail, but use the dated BC and AD format. Illustrations are an eye-catching mix of well-captioned drawings of processes like mummification and pyramid construction alongside contemporary photos of artifacts and locations. The market has a surfeit of sets on ancient Egypt, but this one offers valuable perspective on how ongoing archaeology and scholarship continue to expand current knowledge. VERDICT Ghost Ship, Tomb Robbers, and Golden Mummies will be new for most readers and are primary purchases. Great Pyramid, King Tut, and Sphinx are good additional purchases.

Middle to High School

Bailey, Budd. Red Scare: Communists in America. ISBN 9781502623256.

Bjorklund, Ruth. Internment: Japanese Americans in World War II. ISBN 9781502623232.

Boehme, Gerry. Heresy: The Spanish Inquisition. ISBN 9781502623294.

Coddington, Andrew. Martyrdom: Christians in the Roman Empire. ISBN 9781502623270.

Morretta, Alison. Islamophobia: Religious Intolerance Against Muslims Today. ISBN 9781502623317.

Shoup, Kate. Nazi Propaganda: Jews in Hitler’s Germany. ISBN 9781502623218.

ea vol: 128p. (Public Persecutions). bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $45.64.

Gr 9 Up –The strength of this series is its lengthy discussion and analysis of how the combination of highly nationalistic ideologies or extreme religious doctrines created atmospheres ripe for persecution. Language is somewhat old-fashioned, such as Internment’s claim that Japan “developed a thirst for wealth, military power, and international respect.” Islamophobia includes a history of the subject and focuses on post-9/11 examples, including statements made by Donald Trump. Layouts are text-heavy and stock photos add little. In addition, some bibliographies suggest dated sources. VERDICT Suitable for in-depth reports; large collections should consider.

Baldino, Greg. Art, Technology, and Language Across the Middle East. ISBN 9781502623614.

Griffiths, Katie. Religion, Philosophy, and Nationalism Across the Middle East. ISBN 9781502623591.

Heing, Bridget. Geography, Government, and Conflict Across the Middle East. ISBN 9781502623676.

Ryckman, Tatiana. Economy, Trade, and Resources Across the Middle East. ISBN 9781502623706.

ea vol: 112p. (Understanding the Cultures of the Middle East). bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $42.79.

Gr 9 Up –These well-written and comprehensive books survey how ancient and unresolved religious and territorial disputes, colonialism, and the destabilizing impact of oil and global geopolitics have influenced and shaped the countries of the Middle East. Authors are objective, describing the region’s many contributions to the world from prehistory to the present; its many contemporary economic, social, and governmental challenges; and its potential for the future. The final chapter of each book has brief biographical sketches of influential people, past and present. Illustrations are average, mostly stock photos, and the few maps are inadequate, especially in depictions of changes in boundaries. Nevertheless, this set will help high school students understand the history and current status of complex regions. VERDICT For all teen collections.

Campos, Joan Soriano. A Visual History of Archaeological Discoveries Around the World. ISBN 9781499465761.

––––. A Visual History of the World’s Enduring Mysteries. ISBN 9781499465785.

Cicero, Nuria. A Visual History of Houses and Cities Around the World. ISBN 9781499465723.

de la Fuente, Alberto Moreno. A Visual History of Ships and Navigation. ISBN 9781499465945.

––––. A Visual History of Soldiers and Armies Around the World. ISBN 9781499465921.

Hernández, Alberto. A Visual History of Science and Technology. ISBN 9781499465969.

––––. A Visual History of the Great Civilizations. ISBN 9781499465747.

ea vol: 96p. (A Visual History of the World). further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. photos. reprods. websites. Rosen YA. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $37.10.

Gr 7 Up –This series is exactly what it claims to be: visual history—and its artwork is exceptional. Each book is chock-full of extraordinary images, ranging from maps and photos of locations and artifacts to reproductions of art, CGI figures, cityscapes, and buildings. Many of the illustrations are cutaways with clear, informative labels that allow readers to glimpse “inside” representative buildings and locations and a wide range of objects, weapons, and technology. They also highlight the methods archaeologists and historians employ to find, document, and interpret the past. Arrangement is mostly chronological, from prehistory to the present, with early and ancient civilizations best represented. Text includes adequate background details and some analysis. This set lets teens “see” history and is certain to draw an audience. VERDICT A top choice for high schoolers.

Chandler, Matt. Behind Enemy Lines: The Escape of Robert Grimes with the Comet Line. illus. by Dante Ginevra. ISBN 9781515735304; ISBN 9781515735359.

––––. Outrunning the Nazis: The Brave Escape of Resistance Fighter Sven Somme. illus. by Daniele Nicotra & Douglas A. Sirois. ISBN 9781515735298; ISBN 9781515735342.

Yomtov, Nel. Death Camp Uprising: The Escape from Sobibor Concentration Camp. illus. by Michael Bartolo & Wilson Tortosa. ISBN 9781515735328; ISBN 9781515735373.

––––. Tunneling to Freedom: The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III. illus. by Alessandro Valdrighi. ISBN 9781515735311; ISBN 9781515735366.

ea vol: 32p. (Great Escapes of World War II). further reading. glossary. index. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $30.65. pap. $7.95.

Gr 6 Up –Using a graphic novel format, these titles tell the true stories of dangerous and exciting escapes in the European Theater of the Second World War. Each story is prefaced with a few pages of background and concludes with information about the ­escape’s aftermath. In addition, the authors incorporate adequate background information into the action-filled narratives. Drawings are well executed and attractive, with a muted color palette and varying layouts of two to four panels per page; many have comic book–style effects (“RIPP!”). VERDICT Sure to draw middle schoolers in; a first pick.

Cunningham, Anne. Women Political Leaders. ISBN 9780766081413.

Gay, Kathlyn. Women Entrepreneurs. ISBN 9780766081437.

Johanson, Paula. Women Writers. ISBN 9780766081451.

Mabry-Gordon, Sherri. Women Athletes. ISBN 9780766081475.

Schmermund, Elizabeth. Women in Technology. ISBN 9780766081499.

––––. Women Warriors. ISBN 9780766081512.

ea vol: 128p. (Defying Convention: Women Who Changed the Rules). further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Enslow. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $37.27.

Gr 9 Up –The women featured in this well-written set defied more than convention. They also rebelled against prejudices, laws, and cultural norms to achieve success in nontraditional areas. Documented content ranges from ancient history to the present, combining background and analysis with biographical sketches of a diverse group of women. General introductions are followed by chronological chapters that describe how women challenged societal limits in historical eras. The sketches in each volume run from three to five pages and generally include a portrait. Many of those mentioned, such as Cleopatra and Joan of Arc, are well known, while others, such as Princess Pingyang (Warriors) and Mary Katherine Goddard (Entrepreneurs), will be new to most readers. VERDICT A primary addition to teen history collections.

Doleac, Miles. Alexander the Great. ISBN 9781502624536.

Hubbard, Ben. Gladiators. ISBN 9781 502624574.

––––. Samurai Warriors. ISBN 9781502624598.

––––. Viking Warriors. ISBN 9781502624550.

ea vol: 224p. (Conquerors and Combatants). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. reprods. websites. Cavendish Square. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $55.

Gr 9 Up –A comprehensive take on fearsome warriors for sophisticated readers. Lengthy chapters describe how they were recruited, trained, lived, and fought. In addition, the bands of marauders are placed into the larger context of their cultures, where they played important social, economic, and military roles, eventually becoming symbols of their civilizations. The volumes are profusely illustrated with many large photos of locations and artifacts. The complexity of the text will limit readership, but the extra attention to detail will appeal to devoted history buffs and assist report writers. VERDICT High school collections that serve proficient readers should investigate.

Greenling, Jason. The Technology of Ancient China. ISBN 9781502622358.

––––. The Technology of the Vikings. ISBN 9781502622419.

McCullough, Naomi. The Technology of Ancient Rome. ISBN 9781502622334.

––––. The Technology of the Mesopotamians. ISBN 9781502622372.

Shoup, Kate. The Technology of Ancient Aztecs. ISBN 9781502622396.

––––. The Technology of Ancient Greece. ISBN 9781502622310.

ea vol: 64p. (Ancient Innovations). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. reprods. websites. Cavendish Square. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $34.21.

Gr 5-8 –The majority of the content in this set was previously published under Cavendish Square’s Benchmark imprint as “Technology of the Ancients” in 2011. Books have new authors, and changes include new chapter introductions and conclusions, a few updated facts or mentions of new archaeological finds, and the occasional sidebar. With those exceptions, the text is unchanged from the earlier edition. Books cover each civilization’s history and its innovations in architecture, agriculture, engineering and public works, transportation, and scientific discoveries. Photographs have been changed to feature more images of artifacts and locations. This set is generally well written and will help readers and report writers understand the importance of technology in early civilizations, but this is a mixture of new and recycled material. VERDICT For large collections in need of additional report fodder.

Hulick, Kathryn. Bad Days in Exploration. ISBN 9781410985613.

Marthaler, Jon. Bad Days in Sports. ISBN 9781410985644.

Nardo, Dan. Bad Days in Battle. ISBN 9781410985620.

Regan, Michael. Bad Days in Science and Exploration. ISBN 9781410985637.

ea vol: 48p. (Whoops!: A History of Bad Days). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Heinemann-Raintree. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $33.32.

Gr 5-8 –Casual overviews of some of history’s most notorious mistakes and missteps. Most “bad days” are covered on a single page; a few get a spread. Layouts include large, cartoon-style bursts, headlines with exclamation points, and a paragraph or two about the topics. They range from the ancient world to the present, though with more material about recent history. “Oops!” sidebars add information about main or related topics, and other sidebars provide notable tidbits. Background is extremely limited, and people and events are poorly introduced. Exploration quotes the late Neil Armstrong in the present tense. Images are mostly black-and-white photos on brightly colored pages. VERDICT These books might draw browsers but are unlikely to hold their attention. A supplemental choice.

LeBoutillier, Linda. Secrets of the U.S. Civil War. ISBN 9781515741381; ISBN 9781515741428.

McCollum, Sean. Secrets of World War I. ISBN 9781515741398; ISBN 9781515741435.

––––. Secrets of World War II. ISBN 9781515741404; ISBN 9781515741442.

Omoth, Tyler. Secrets of the American Revolution. ISBN 9781515741374; ISBN 9781515741411.

ea vol: 32p. (Top Secret Files). further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. photos. reprods. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $27.99. pap. $7.95.

Gr 4-7 –The “top secrets” in this series are clandestine, covert, or little-known incidents and operations in each war, most of which are now very well known and are routinely featured in most history books. Topics include the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, newly introduced weapons and equipment like German submarines in World War I, and spies, such as Nathan Hale in American Revolution. Books are organized into topical chapters about people, weapons and tactics, and battles. However, coverage is superficial, with most topics getting about a paragraph of text that offers little or no background. Brief “Fighting Fact” sidebars supply additional trivia. Illustrations are decidedly average, including drawings, the occasional map, and some period photos. VERDICT Readers won’t learn many “secrets” from this set, making it supplementary to most collections.

Mason, Helen. A Refugee’s Journey from Afghanistan. ISBN 9780778731252; ISBN 9780778731290.

––––. A Refugee’s Journey from Syria. ISBN 9780778731283; ISBN 9780778731849.

Rodger, Ellen. A Refugee’s Journey from Iraq. ISBN 9780778731276; ISBN 9780778731573.

––––. A Refugee’s Journey from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. ISBN 9780778731269; ISBN 9780778731566.

ea vol: 32p. (Leaving My Homeland). ebook available. further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. photos. websites. Crabtree. Feb. 2017. lib. ed. $27.60. pap. $8.95.

Gr 4-7 –First-person stories of refugee experiences are supplemented with comprehensive information about each country’s history and the conflicts that have driven people from their homes. Authors objectively describe hardships of war and persecution without sensationalism, and sidebar excerpts from the United Nation’s “Rights of the Child” highlight the lack of rights and appalling conditions these children endure. By contrast, the accounts and accompanying photos are somewhat generic, making it hard for readers to connect with the stories. VERDICT A timely but uneven effort that reveals the plight of children affected by the horrors of war; suitable for reports and current events needs.

The best of these sets highlight the power of vision in changing history. Three are top choices for teen collections: Rosen YA’s “A Visual History of the World,” Enslow’s “Defying Convention: Women Who Changed the Rules,” and Cavendish Square’s “Understanding the Cultures of the Middle East.” Capstone’s “Great Escapes of World War II” is sure to be a hit with middle schoolers. Most of the books in Cavendish Square’s “Public Persecutions” are well-written supplemental choices for reports. Lastly, despite its flaws, consider Crabtree’s “Leaving My Homeland” for its topical coverage.

Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

For the latest nonfiction series reviews, check out the Spring 2017 Series Made Simple

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