Wide, Wide World: Life Science | Series Nonfiction

Ranging from natural disasters and phenomena to defensive plants and micromonsters, these varied and eclectic series will hook readers while imparting a deeper understanding of life science.

1611-sms-lifescienceGiven the range of topics that fall under the broad heading of life science, the variety of subjects represented in this season’s lineup should not be surprising (biomes, microorganisms, natural disasters, etc.). However, what is unexpected is the diversity within the series themselves: writing style, unique approaches to familiar topics, and the quality of photos, diagrams, and other illustrations can vary among volumes. Eclectic sets give librarians the opportunity to pick and choose titles tailored to their specific collections, although the process may be more time-consuming than ordering entire series.


Bassington, Cyril. Your Bones. ISBN 9781482444353; ISBN 9781482444537; ISBN 9781482444155.

––––. Your Brain. ISBN 9781482444360; ISBN 9781482444544; ISBN 9781482444162.

––––. Your Heart. ISBN 9781482444384; ISBN 9781482444551; ISBN 9781482444179.

Fittleworth, George. Your Lungs. ISBN 9781482444377; ISBN 9781482444568; ISBN 9781482444186.

––––. Your Muscles. ISBN 9781482444216; ISBN 9781482444575; ISBN 9781 482444193.

––––. Your Stomach. ISBN 9781482444223; ISBN 9781482444582; ISBN 9781 482444209.

ea vol: 24p. (Know Your Body). diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $22.60. pap. $8.15. ebk. $22.60.

Gr 1-4 –Straightforward, basic introductions to various body systems that pair text pages with related photos or diagrams. Each volume offers essential information without complexity or confusion. For example, Heart explains and illustrates the blood flow within the four chambers but avoids mention of the more tricky concept of valves. Stomach has a diagram of the whole digestive system but mainly concentrates on the title organ. Lungs places the most emphasis on terminology in the series and includes a detailed diagram of an alveolus. VERDICT While not flashy or innovative, these presentations provide good starting points for learning about body systems.

Bath, Louella. Plants That Mimic. ISBN 9781499421538; ISBN 9781499421514; ISBN 9781499421545.

Bishop, Celeste. Plants That Poke. ISBN 9781499421613; ISBN 9781499421590; ISBN 9781499421620.

Hicks, Dwayne. Plants That Poison. ISBN 9781499421576; ISBN 9781499421552; ISBN 9781499421583.

Jones, Keisha. Plants That Eat. ISBN 9781499421415; ISBN 9781499421392; ISBN 9781499421422.

Mack, Molly. Plants That Move. ISBN 9781499421491; ISBN 9781499421477; ISBN 9781499421507.

Puri, Devi. Plants That Hide. ISBN 9781499421453; ISBN 9781499421439; ISBN 9781499421460.

ea vol: 24p. (Plant Defenses). glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $23.60. pap. $. ebk. $.

Gr 3-5 –An eye-opening look at plants. Each book includes an explanation of the adaptations that resulted in the subjects’ unusual features. Volumes about plants that eat, poke, and poison are particularly excellent for their well-chosen examples and solid use of text and photos throughout. For example, in Poke, the written explanations of structural differences among thorns, spine, and prickles are reinforced by labels on the accompanying photo. Poison provides the widest range of examples and stresses the importance of consulting a guide before handling unknown species. The titles on plants that hide, mimic, or move are more general and stress their survival techniques as much as defense. VERDICT Eat, Poke, and Poison are top choices; the others are worthwhile additions if budgets allow.

Black, Vanessa. Dust Storms. ISBN 9781620313978; ISBN 9781624964442.

––––. Floods. ISBN 9781620313985; ISBN 9781624964459.

––––. Ice Storms. ISBN 9781620313992; ISBN 9781624964466.

––––. Wildfires. ISBN 9781620314005; ISBN 9781624964473.

ea vol: 24p. (Disaster Zone). glossary. index. photos. websites. Jump!/Pogo. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $25.65. ebk. $17.95.

Gr 2-4 –Simple explanations are paired with relevant illustrations to bolster confidence in emerging researchers. In addition to basic facts about the causes and effects of natural disasters, each volume includes a map where they are most likely to occur, plus several historic or contemporary examples. Small diagrams and text boxes help explain terms such as haboob. A hands-on activity, such as melting ice without changing the temperature, precedes the back matter. The exception is Wildfires, which suggests additional Internet research as the accompanying activity. VERDICT Good choices to introduce primary researchers to components of nonfiction.

Boothroyd, Jennifer. From Cub to Panda. ISBN 9781512418286.

––––. From Cub to Tiger. ISBN 9781512418323.

––––. From Egg to Owl. ISBN 9781512418316.

––––. From Egg to Penguin. ISBN 9781512418293.

Owings, Lisa. From Egg to Honeybee. ISBN 9781512409086.

––––. From Egg to Ladybug. ISBN 9781 512409109.

––––. From Egg to Sea Turtle. ISBN 9781 512418279.

––––. From Garbage to Compost. ISBN 9781 512409116.

––––. From Joey to Kangaroo. ISBN 9781 512418309.

Schuh, Mari. From Seed to Strawberry. ISBN 9781512409130.

––––. From Seed to Sunflower. ISBN 9781512409147.

––––. From Soil to Garden. ISBN 9781512409468.

ea vol: 24p. (Start to Finish, Second Series). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $23.99.

K-Gr 3 –Well-designed text pages allow less able readers to understand key concepts by focusing on the sentence in large type, while older (or more fluent) readers can gain additional information from supporting sentences in smaller type. Accompanying photos reinforce the sequential structure of the developmental process. Among the more striking are of the transformation from egg through larva and pupa stages in Ladybug and Honeybee. These top choices would work well for compare-and-contrast exercises. The other “egg books” could support discussions of similarities among bird, insect, and reptile development. Of the animal selections, Joey to Kangaroo is strongest, with amazing close-up photos of the growing joey. Most disappointing is Seed to Strawberry, which not only begins with a growing plant but doesn’t mention where seeds can be found on mature fruit. VERDICT Strongly consider Ladybug and Honeybee; other titles can be selected to fill subject gaps.

Boothroyd, Jennifer. Let’s Visit the Deciduous Forest. ISBN 9781512411898.

––––. Let’s Visit the Grassland. ISBN 9781512411928.

––––. Let’s Visit the Ocean. ISBN 9781512411942.

––––. Let’s Visit the Tundra. ISBN 9781512411966.

Silverman, Buffy. Let’s Visit the Desert. ISBN 9781512411904.

––––. Let’s Visit the Evergreen Forest. ISBN 9781512411911.

––––. Let’s Visit the Lake. ISBN 9781512411935.

––––. Let’s Visit the Rain Forest. ISBN 9781512411959.

ea vol: 32p. (Lightning Bolt Books: Biome Explorers). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. Lerner. Oct. 2016. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 2-4 –Clear sentences introduce biome facts while contrasting text boxes supply additional information about the accompanying photographs. Each title includes a world map identifying biome locations. Although the books mention biome variations, most concentrate on one type. For example, Grassland centers on the North American prairie, and Tundra concentrates on the Arctic. Minor errors detract from the overall effectiveness; for instance, in Deserts, text describes how a snake “lunges at a lizard,” but the accompanying photo shows a docile snake and no lizard. Boothroyd’s descriptions of plant and animal relationships in an ecosystem are more effective than Silverman’s explanations. VERDICT Volumes from this series could supplement but not replace, current resources on specific biomes.

Bowman, Chris. Survive a Blizzard. ISBN 9781626174412; ISBN 9781681032344.

––––. Survive a Tornado. ISBN 9781626174443; ISBN 9781681032375.

––––. Survive in the Mountains. ISBN 9781626174467; ISBN 9781681032399.

––––. Survive in the Woods. ISBN 9781626174474; ISBN 9781681032405.

Perish, Patrick. Survive a Flood. ISBN 9781626174429; ISBN 9781681032351.

––––. Survive a Hurricane. ISBN 9781626174436; ISBN 9781681032368.

––––. Survive a Tsunami. ISBN 9781626174450; ISBN 9781681032382.

––––. Survive on a Desert Island. ISBN 9781626174481; ISBN 9781681032412.

ea vol: 24p. (Survival Zone). diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bellwether. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $25.95. ebk. $22.95.

Gr 3-7 –Starting with a true-life scenario, each volume challenges students to imagine how they would survive in difficult weather-related circumstances. Topics range from relatively frequent occurrences (blizzards and floods) to rare ones (isolation on a desert island). Diagrams help explain how phenomena such as flash floods and tsunamis develop. Numerous photos and text boxes accompany instructions for constructing shelters, finding food, and starting a fire. Helpful suggestions for assembling emergency kits, heeding weather warnings, and taking precautions after storms have subsided appear in many of the titles. The fast-paced text, which often addresses readers directly, will keep them turning pages. VERDICT Engaging works that deliver lots of information in a succinct and lively way.

Castellano, Peter. Earth’s Oceans. ISBN 9781482446784; ISBN 9781482446791; ISBN 9781482446777.

––––. Water Conservation. ISBN 9781482446944; ISBN 9781482446920; ISBN 9781482446951.

Klimchuk, Caitlin. Precipitation. ISBN 9781482446869; ISBN 9781482446845; ISBN 9781482446876.

Linde, Barbara. The Water Cycle. ISBN 9781482446906; ISBN 9781482446883; ISBN 9781482446913.

––––. What Is Wastewater? ISBN 9781482446999; ISBN 9781482446968; ISBN 9781482447019.

Rajczak, Michael. Deadly Droughts. ISBN 9781482446821; ISBN 9781482446807; ISBN 9781482446838.

ea vol: 24p. (Where’s the Water?). charts. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $22.60. pap. $8.15. ebk. $22.60.

Gr 3-6 –This series offers wide-ranging coverage of water-related topics. Oceans and Droughts are standout choices. Castellano incorporates plenty of maps in his explanations of the political, geographic, and geologic aspects of the five oceans that form one world ocean. Also, a helpful chart compares surface area, average depth, and deepest points. Dramatic photos accompany Rajczak’s explanations of meteorological, agricultural, hydrological, and socioeconomic droughts. Conservation and Wastewater would pair well for lessons on how public water systems work and the need to reduce pollution and curb water usage to assure fresh water availability. Although adequate presentations, Precipitation and Water Cycle don’t differ from existing coverage of these popular topics. A drawback to all the volumes are the “Facts on Tap” sidebars that include useful information but are hard to read due to the use of wavy blue type on blue backgrounds. VERDICT Most collections would benefit from adding at least some titles as noted above, even if budgets don’t stretch to purchase the entire series.

CREWE, Sabrina. Micromonsters in the Garden. ISBN 9781508150831; ISBN 9781508150879; ISBN 9781508150794.

––––. Micromonsters in Your Home. ISBN 9781508150862; ISBN 9781508150909; ISBN 9781508150824.

Hibbert, Clare. Micromonsters in Your Body. ISBN 9781508150848; ISBN 9781508150886; ISBN 9781508150800.

––––. Micromonsters in Your Food. ISBN 9781508150855; ISBN 9781508150893; ISBN 9781508150817.

ea vol: 32p. (Micromonsters: Microscopic Life Up Close). chart. diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $26.25. pap. $10. ebk. $26.25.

Gr 3-7 –Amazing, close-up images star in these introductions to the microorganisms around and inside us. Whether a photographic sequence of a one-celled didinium ingesting a paramecium (Garden) or a developing head louse embryo attached to a human hair (Body), the images command attention. Most of the photos are achieved through the use of a scanning electron microscope (SEM). “Gross or What?” fact boxes supply startling, and sometimes disgusting, notes. Each spread includes the micromonster’s common and Latin names, size, habitat, and life span. The main text explains how the microorganism benefits or harms humans, other animals, or plants. Food, for example, presents yeast’s importance in bread making but also warns about botulism. Each volume concludes with a diagram showing how small micrometers and nanometers are. VERDICT Casual browsers to budding microbiologists will be fascinated by these introductions to hidden worlds.

Hansen, Grace. Desert Biome. ISBN 9781680805000; ISBN 9781680806687.

––––. Forest Biome. ISBN 9781680805017; ISBN 9781680806694.

––––. Freshwater Biome. ISBN 9781680805024; ISBN 9781680806700.

––––. Grassland Biome. ISBN 9781680805031; ISBN 9781680806717.

––––. Marine Biome. ISBN 9781680805048; ISBN 9781680806724.

––––. Tundra Biome. ISBN 9781680805055; ISBN 9781680806731.

ea vol: 24p. (Biomes). glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $19.95. ebk. $34.95.

PreS-Gr 2 –Hansen succeeds at the difficult task of reducing complex topics to their essential elements for young readers. Besides identifying the important characteristics of each biome, she notes distinctions, such as arctic and alpine tundra and boreal, temperate, and tropical forests. She also provides representative examples of the biome’s plants and animals. In some volumes Hansen notes how the characteristics of a particular biome may have influenced animal adaptations, for example, the camel’s humps. A page of photo comparisons reinforces the idea of different variations of the featured subject, such as plants and animals in temperate and tropical grasslands. The oversize format, featuring a large photo in each spread, makes the books good choices for group sharing. VERDICT Well-designed, basic introductions to the important features of various biomes. First choices for most collections.

Lindeen, Mary. I Eat Apples in the Fall. ISBN 9781512407938.

––––. I Pick Fall Pumpkins. ISBN 9781512407969.

––––. I Watch Fall Harvests. ISBN 9781512407945.

Schuh, Mari. I Feel Fall Weather. ISBN 9781512407976.

––––. I Notice Animals in Fall. ISBN 9781512407921.

––––. I See Fall Leaves. ISBN 9781512407952.

ea vol: 24p. (First Step Nonfiction: Observing Fall). ebook available. glossary. index. Lerner. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $23.99.

PreS-Gr 2 –These titles will encourage students to not only engage with the books but with the world around them as well. Stock photos accompany brief texts. Apples, Pumpkins, and Leaves consider concepts such as colors, shapes, and size. Harvests includes familiar crops—grapes and broccoli and more unusual ones, like canola and sorghum. Animals introduces topics such as adaptation, migration, and hibernation. Weather is the weakest of the lot, with no explanation of why seasonal changes occur. A simple glossary and index introduce the rudiments of nonfiction. Follow-up activities stress outdoor explorations, such as leaf gathering or animal observation, rather than research. VERDICT While not essential purchases, the series could be used as a starting point for fall-related activities.

Raum, Elizabeth. Blizzard! ISBN 9781 607539889; ISBN 9781607539940.

––––. Earthquake! ISBN 9781607539896; ISBN 9781607539957.

––––. Flood! ISBN 9781607539902; ISBN 9781607539964.

––––. Hurricane! ISBN 9781607539919; ISBN 9781607539971.

––––. Tornado! ISBN 9781607539926; ISBN 9781607539988.

––––. Wildfire! ISBN 9781607539933; ISBN 9781607539995.

ea vol: 32p. (Natural Disasters). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Amicus. Jul. 2016. lib. ed. $20.95. ebk. $42.80.

Gr 3-6 –Raum uses short, punchy sentences to engage readers. Each title considers ways scientists study causes and attempt to predict occurrences. Vintage and contemporary photographs accompany brief discussions of major events and illustrate impact. Many volumes include worldwide coverage, such as Earthquake, which provides examples from Haiti, China, Japan, and Nepal. A few captions fail to identify locations, such as the collapsed roof of a stadium in Blizzard. Raum offers safety tips and suggests how individuals and communities might prepare for potential disasters. VERDICT Although these books don’t break new ground, they will appeal to reluctant readers and supplement collection resources.

VanVoorst, Jenny Fretland. Clouds. ISBN 9781620313879; ISBN 9781624964343.

––––. Fog. ISBN 9781620313886; ISBN 9781624964350.

––––. Lightning. ISBN 9781620313893; ISBN 9781624964367.

––––. Rain. ISBN 9781620313909; ISBN 9781624964374.

––––. Snow. ISBN 9781620313916; ISBN 9781624964381.

––––. Wind. ISBN 9781620313923; ISBN 9781624964398.

ea vol: 24p. (Weather Watch). glossary. index. photos. websites. Jump!/Bullfrog. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $25.65. ebk. $17.95.

K-Gr 2 –These attractive explorations of basic weather topics use simple text and large photos to foster reading success. Labels help clarify concepts, such as how air movement produces wind. Rain and Wind note the benefits of each, while Snow highlights different types of snowy weather. More technical vocabulary is reserved for a final page with four related examples, such as the types of clouds (e.g., cumulonimbus) or windstorms (e.g., hurricane). Each word in the short glossary is accompanied by a relevant picture. The weakest volume is Lightning, which stresses a visual wow factor without mentioning the need for caution. Many suggested websites are too advanced for young readers but could provide resources for parents or teachers. VERDICT Although each title stands alone, the four related to precipitation would work well together. Wind is a top choice.

Middle to High School

Chambers, Catherine. Stickmen’s Guide to Cities in Layers. ISBN 9781512406207; ISBN 9781512411782.

––––. Stickmen’s Guide to Earth’s Atmosphere in Layers. ISBN 9781512406177; ISBN 9781512411812.

––––. Stickmen’s Guide to Mountains and Valleys in Layers. ISBN 9781512406184; ISBN 9781512411799.

––––. Stickmen’s Guide to Oceans in Layers. ISBN 9781512406191; ISBN 9781512411805.

ea vol: illus. by Venitia Dean & John Paul de Quay. 32p. (Stickmen’s Guides to This Incredible Earth). chart. diag. glossary. index. Lerner/Hungry Tomato. Sept. 2016. lib. ed. $26.65. pap. $7.99.

Gr 4-8 –Chock-full of information, these guides will intrigue browsers. The organizational layer-by-layer strategy works well for the most part. From the sunlight zone to ocean trenches, readers learn about plants and animals as well as the methods and tools scientists use to study each subject. Atmosphere considers satellites, weather forecasting, ozone depletion, and more, from exosphere to troposphere. Mountains and Valleys loses some focus by including topics as varied as plains, tectonic plates, and the earth’s core. Stick figures appear on most spreads among the detailed drawings and diagrams. Many unfamiliar terms are defined in the text rather than in the brief glossary. Lack of source documentation means that readers will need help locating additional resources on specific topics. VERDICT Good starting points for curious browsers, who will pore over the pages and may be motivated to seek more in-depth information elsewhere.

Garbe, Suzanne. The Science Behind Wonders of the Sun: Sun Dogs, Lunar Eclipses, and Green Flash. ISBN 9781515707783; ISBN 9781515707837.

––––. The Science Behind Wonders of the Water: Exploding Lakes, Ice Circles, and Brinicles. ISBN 9781515707769; ISBN 9781515707813.

Leavitt, Amie Jane. The Science Behind Wonders of Earth: Cave Crystals, Balancing Rocks, and Snow Donuts. ISBN 9781515707738; ISBN 9781515707790.

Morey, Allan. The Science Behind Wonders of the Sky: Auroras, Moonbows, and St. Elmo’s Fire. ISBN 9781515707776; ISBN 9781515707820.

ea vol: 32p. (The Science Behind Natural Phenomena). diag. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $20.99. pap. $7.95.

Gr 4-8 –Providing scientific explanations for familiar and unusual natural phenomena, these books will intrigue most readers. Earth unravels the mysterious movement of boulders across Death Valley and considers the formation of caves, crystals, and erosional landforms. Water includes the dramatic account of an “exploding lake” in Cameroon and explains how scientists worked to mitigate the problem. Water, which contains the most maps and diagrams of the set, also introduces the ocean conveyor belt, iceberg formation, and tidal bores. Sun considers how solar ejections disrupt electronics on Earth and explains sunspot cycles, auroras, and sun dogs. The topics in Sky, such as comets and lightning, are the most standard, although the book expands on typical coverage. For example, cloud formations like asperitas and lenticular appear along with the more common cumulus. Appropriate photos accompany the explanatory texts. VERDICT Useful choices to extend basic coverage of natural phenomena offered in other sources.

For the youngest readers, ABDO’s “Biomes” merits first consideration for the succinct, clear, and informative coverage of the entire series. A top choice for elementary readers is PowerKids’ “Micromonsters.” Bellwether’s “Survival Zone” combines basic information about how natural disasters occur with advice about preparation and precautions. Several other series include stand-out titles, even if library budgets don’t stretch to purchase the entire set. For young readers, consider Jump!’s “Weather Watch” for its well-designed introductions to topics, such as snow and wind. PowerKids’ “Plant Defenses” will intrigue and surprise readers. Lerner’s “Stickmen’s Guides to This Incredible Earth” are a browser’s delight. As noted in the reviews above, all the series offer at least some volumes that can supplement existing resources.

Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University Library, Mankato

For the latest nonfiction series reviews, check out the Fall 2016 Series Made Simple

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