Book Reviews

Voices From Around the World: Pacific Islands series

SLJ Series Made Simple, November 2022

This series centers the rich and diverse Pacific Islands. Starting with a table of contents each title has four chapters of varying lengths. Readers are welcomed first in the language native to the island country and given a pronunciation guide. Multiple paragraphs of text are accompanied by infographics, art and photos on the backdrop of designed pages. Important boxes of information appear throughout the text and highlight facts, such as “In villages, a conch shell is blown each evening at sunset. This lets people know it is time for family prayers” (Samoa), important objects and symbols in the culture, famous people, and how to respectfully visit the area. The back matter includes a native language glossary, English glossary, more reading suggestions, and index. The series is a fantastic example of using authors from the area and consultants who are descendants and raised in the culture to make sure the country is described and represented correctly.

VERDICT A great series that explores the countries and culture of the Pacific Islands.

Trailblazing Female Athletes series

SLJ Series Made Simple, November 2022

In these six volumes readers are provided brief introductions to female athletes in the fields of tennis, surfing, gymnastics, soccer, track and field, and ¬cycling. Some athletes are well-known: Billie Jean King, Simone Biles, and Mia Hamm. Others, especially in surfing and cycling, are less f¬amous including Margo Godfrey Oberg and Kittie Knox. Careers are the primary focus as each athlete’s progression and achievements are chronicled. Betty ¬Robinson won the one hundred meter dash at the 1928 Olympics, Sun Wen was awarded the Golden Ball at the 1999 World Cup, and Layne Beachley won six consecutive world titles in surfing. While the narratives are straightforward and informative, they lack depth: little information is provided on personal lives and relationships. Nonetheless, readers will learn about important women in the respective sports and may be inspired to learn more. Photographs accompany the texts.

VERDICT The volumes will be of value where there is little information about women in various sports, especially in surfing and cycling, and purchase should be considered based on need.

Astro the Alien Learns about Civics series

SLJ Series Made Simple, November 2022

In these colorful volumes, young readers are introduced to the basics of United States civics. Astro the Alien teams up with Earth friends Ben and Eva to learn about United States holidays, voting, and various political entities. In Public Holidays, they go back in time to explore Juneteenth, Independence Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and Veteran’s Day. A class election allows for Ben and Eva to explain the voting process to Astro in Voting. A visit to the park invokes a lesson on how city halls are run in City Hall. A trip to Washington in Astro’s machine allows the three to see the Capitol, Supreme Court, and White House wherein Astro learns of the duties of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, and the President. Astro is an attractive protagonist that children will enjoy. Fun and readable, these titles do an excellent job in introducing the youngest readers to the basic functions of local and national governments.

VERDICT These bright and entertaining volumes will entertain and inform and should be considered for purchase where enhancements to civics titles are needed.

Astro the Alien Learns about Civics series

Booklist, November 2022

A fictional framework surrounds the civics lessons imparted in the breezy Astro the Alien Learns Civics series. In an Alf-like set-up, Astro (a seafoam-green extraterrestrial shaped like a walking gumdrop) lives with an American family, and he has lots of questions about life in the U.S. Siblings Ben and Eva show him the ropes by embarking on illu­minating field trips. In Astro the Alien Learns about Public Holidays, the trio hops into Astro’s spaceship to travel to a variety of celebrations (and even back in time!); Presidents’ Day, Juneteenth, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day all get brief introductions. A school election ushers in Astro the Alien Learns about Voting, which imparts the fundamentals of voting at school as well as on a local and national scale. Astro and his friends attend a city council meeting to ask if trees will be planted in the park in Astro the Alien Visits City Hall. It’s off to D.C. in Astro the Alien Visits the Supreme Court, where Astro learns how Supreme Court justices are selected and about the nature of their job. Light but nevertheless informative, this series also strives to help strengthen reading and fluency skills with its simple sentences and appended activities.

Sāmoa (Voices From Around the World: Pacific Islands)

Booklist, October 1, 2022

This colorful book from the Voices from around the World: Pacific Islands series (5 titles) presents the history, geography, climate, societal customs, role of religion, and the love of music, art, and sports in Sāmoa. The discussion begins with a traditional myth concerning the creation of humankind and extends through Sāmoan participation in the 2021 Summer Olympics and the effects of global warming on coastal areas of the islands. Writer Jane Va’afusuaga is a 20-year resident of Sāmoa; her husband, Tuiafutea Olsen Va’afusuaga, who is of Sāmoan heritage, was a consultant on the book. The writing is engaging, and well-chosen photos brighten the pages while offering glimpses of the country, its history, and its people. This informative introduction to Sāmoa will fill a gap in many libraries’ collections.

Trailblazing Women in Surfing (Trailblazing Female Athletes)

Booklist, October 1, 2022

From the Trailblazing Female Athletes series (6 titles), this volume celebrates notable women in the history of women’s surfing. The account begins with Hawaii’s nineteenth-century Princess Ka‘iulani, who continued her people’s tradition of surfing despite rules against it. Ford traces the worldwide rise of women’s surfing from the mid-twentieth century onward, introducing major athletes and describing their strengths, their setbacks, and their triumphs. The book concludes with Hawaiian surfer Carissa Moore winning gold at the 2020 Olympics (held in 2021), the first Summer Olympic Games to include surfing. A typical double-page spread features main text, a well-captioned color photo, and a sidebar with additional information. While telling each surfer’s story concisely, Ford also notes their struggles for equality with men within the sport. An upbeat introduction to women surfers.

Make Your Own: Food Menu! series

Booklist, August 2022

From their bright red-and-yellow covers and inviting titles to their emphasis on appetizing choices, these books aim to attract kids and show them how to prepare certain foods. Each slender volume focuses on one food item or category, and a typical double-page spread includes an attractive color photo illustrating the adjacent text. Bolte often begins by concisely reviewing the food’s history, its popularity, and some typical ingredients, before offering a recipe and showing readers how to make it themselves (with adult assistance when the writer calls for it). Let’s Make a Sandwich opens with a history of bread and discusses a variety of foods from different cultures that can go into a sandwich. After Angie Dudley (a.k.a. Bakerella) introduced cake pops on her blog in 2008, they became a culinary phenomenon; Let’s Make Cake Pops explains how to make them. Let’s Make Nice Cream looks at the origins of ice cream before telling readers how to make a dairy-free alternative, nice cream, from frozen banana slices machine-blended with other flavors. Let’s Make Trail Mix encourages kids to create their own blends and suggests a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits as well as salty or sweet additions. With some original topics, the Make Your Own: Food Menu series offers fresh ideas for young cooks.

Read and Discover – Science series

SLJ – Series Made Simple, November 2021

Identifying forces at work or sorting substances into solids and liquids are a few of the ideas covered in these books. Large scale illustrations dominate the pages, with a few sentences of text on each spread. “Did You Know?” text boxes offer additional facts such as, “A force is always needed to move an object.” Simple page layout makes these books easy to digest, which would be especially helpful with students who can be confused by a cluttered presentation. Back matter includes ideas for discussion and activities to send readers back to the text and also out to make real world connections. In Where Plants Live, for example, it suggests identifying what sort of area the child lives in and what types of plants grow there.

VERDICT: This series could be used as an introduction to a topic in class or for individual exploration by readers.

A Great Game series

SLJ – Series Made Simple, November 2021

The history and play of four popular games is broken down in this thorough series. Readers new to Animal Crossing will learn that it’s actually been around for quite a while—20 years! That’s not the only game here with staying power—Super Mario is over 40 years old, Madden NFL was introduced in the mid-1980s, and chess has been around since at least 500 CE! Sidebars in each book call out important, unique trivia tidbits, like the famous “Madden Curse” that brings bad luck to the popular series’ cover athletes. Several appropriate mentions of the COVID-19 pandemic are strewn throughout each title, including the 2020 Graduate Together commencement (and concurrent explosion of popularity in the United States) on Animal Crossing and the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl being performed entirely virtual on Madden NFL 21.

VERDICT: A recommended purchase. Kids interested in learning more about their favorite games will find a lot to geek out about here.

Dear Dragon Developing Readers (I Love Fall, Dear Dragon!, I Love Spring, Dear Dragon!, I Love Summer, Dear Dragon!, and I Love Winter, Dear Dragon!)

Booklist, October 2021

Join a young boy and his pet dragon on a number of seasonal adventures in this adaptation of Margaret Hillert’s “Dear Dragon” series for emerging readers. Straightforward story lines describe the duo enjoying the weather and activities of each season in short, repetitive sentences. Cartoon-style illustrations provide visual clues to the text; for instance, in I Love Spring, Dear Dragon! a sentence reads, “I see the puddles,” while the accompanying illustration shows the boy and dragon splashing in a puddle. Each title contains a picture glossary with words featured in the story, as well as a list of common sight words before the actual story begins. At the conclusion of each story, readers will not only find discussion questions, but also “Word Work”: activities designed to strengthen the literacy skills emphasized in each book.

VERDICT: While there is nothing groundbreaking to be found here, these stories are a quiet, gentle choice for beginning readers.

Feeling Brave

Booklist, October 2021

Simple but consistent, this Big Feelings series (8 titles) entry hits home with its central message: being brave lets you do things, even if they feel scary. Lindeen runs through a variety of general scenarios: trying something new, doing things by yourself, asking questions, failing and trying again, and helping others. She validates but does not magnify readers’ potential fears in each situation, emphasizing simple ways they can show courage. She also suggests various ways for readers to use their words and actions to encourage themselves and others to be brave. Stock photos of children provide suitable, if not exciting, illustration. A list of high-frequency and content words, as well as close reading and fluency activities, suggests that this book might be used in an educational setting for both SEL and reading practice.

Read and Discover – Science (Earth, Push and Pull, Seasons, and Where Animals Live)

Booklist, September 2021

These new books in the Read & Discover Science series bring to-gether an early-reader format and STEM content. The text is short and simple. Earth effectively describes our planet’s continents and oceans, some plants and animals found on land and in water, weather, geologic landforms and layers, and planetary position. Push and Pull uses repeti-tion to compare the two forces, pairing examples of pushing (closing a drawer, putting on a pair of glasses) and pulling (combing hair, peeling a banana). Seasons covers not only the usual observable differences be-tween seasons that younger children learn but also the reason for these changes: “Earth is always tilted as it moves [around the sun].” Where Animals Live showcases a variety of land and water habitats. In all the books, the text is strongly supported by large, bold photos and simple maps. When there are captions, they tend to be one-word labels. Text features are limited to occasional “Did You Know?” boxes. Back matter includes not only science activities and observations but also sugges-tions for building reading fluency, as well as separate lists of common sight words and of possibly less familiar content words. Schools and families looking to boost nonfiction literacy in beginning readers will find these books useful, and the young readers will likely be happy to explore them.

Read and Discover – Social Studies (Being Kind to Animals)

Booklist, October 2020

Animals are a major part of our lives, be they household companions, in a country corral, or scampering through a nearby wood. This entry in the Read and Discover Social Studies series (4 titles) provides a gentle guide to considerate behavior around all kinds of animals, domesticated and wild. The first section focuses on pets, giving tips on interaction and care. The next extends to behavior around animals in their natural habitats, suggesting that the best way to care for living things is to look after the planet. Margins of spare text are outweighed by large, splashy photos featuring a variety of critters, from common chickens to cuddly chinchillas. Back matter includes suggestions to improve reading comprehension and vocabulary, and a complete word list offers fledgling readers help with fluency.


SLJ–Series Made Simple, November 2019

iScience Complete Set (30 books)This series has books for a variety of grade levels. Some suit the K–2 crowd, while others are better for grades 3–4 or 5–6. The strength of the series is that the format is the same in every book. Each begins with a science puzzle related to the topic. The next section introduces real-world applications of the principles or forces at work, such as magnets, weather, or human body systems. A discovery activity encourages further investigation, while another section traces the topic back in history. As the book is read, details are revealed that help the reader choose the correct solution to the puzzle. A final section discusses more real-life uses or examples. Notes in the back of the books answer questions posed throughout the text (with page references). Photos and diagrams support the text well.

VERDICT The format makes this series handy for planning class investigations.

Tech Bytes – High Tech

SLJ–Series Made Simple, November 2019

Tech Bytes - Set 4 (4 books) - PaperbackThis series has books for a variety of grade levels. Some suit the K–2 crowd, while others are better for grades 3–4 or 5–6. The strength of the series is that the format is the same in every book. Each begins with a science puzzle related to the topic. The next section introduces real-world applications of the principles or forces at work, such as magnets, weather, or human body systems. A discovery activity encourages further investigation, while another section traces the topic back in history. As the book is read, details are revealed that help the reader choose the correct solution to the puzzle. A final section discusses more real-life uses or examples. Notes in the back of the books answer questions posed throughout the text (with page references). Photos and diagrams support the text well.

VERDICT The format makes this series handy for planning class investigations.

Read & Discover – Civics

Booklist, November 2019

Read and Discover - Civics Set (4 books) - PaperbackIt’s a challenge to learn how to function within a larger community, especially for little ones who have only been self-aware for a few short years. Enter the Read and Discover Civics series (4 titles), which offers youngsters relatable examples of actions, values, and community helpers, while building their reading comprehension and fluency skills. Rather than defining key terms for readers, the books demonstrate their meaning with relevant examples and context clues. Rules Rule at School! explains that rules help “make sure everyone is safe and happy,” before providing common school rules paired with descriptions of why or how they are important. For example, listening when others talk “makes our classroom a respectful place.” Community helpers step into the spotlight in Very Important People, which nicely incorporates racial and gender diversity in its photo illustrations. Working Together demonstrates different ways people can improve the places where they live, such as through community gardens and art or cleanup projects. Working Together at School broaches important concepts, like fairness, responsibility, tolerance, and courage. The titles use a double-page spread for each new concept, laid out with clear, smoothly written text set in a band of color beside or underneath a large, well-chosen stock photo. An appended “Reading Reinforcement” sections offers instructors reading comprehension activities to use with their students. A simple but effective series.

Read & Discover – Civics

School Library Journal, November 2019

This beginning reader series uses both common sight words and content area vocabulary to explore social studies concepts. Well-chosen, full-color photographs that align with the subject matter are featured prominently on each page. Accompanying these photographs is easy-to-read font, and pages typically have no more than three short sentences (“People in a community can all work together. They can help their neighbors”). There are a number of helpful tools for teachers and caregivers at the end, including comprehension prompts and suggestions to promote fluency. High-frequency and content vocabulary words are also listed, along with activities to reinforce these.

VERDICT These quality titles focusing on civics and economics will be most effectual as part of classroom collections.

Lonnie Johnson (STEM Superstars)

Booklist, October 2019

Lonnie Johnson - eBook-ClassroomAnyone who’s been blasted by a Super Soaker can thank inventor LonnieJohnson, profiled in the STEM Superstars series (4 titles). While this book is as no-frills as they come, Johnson’s life sparkles. Three short chapters cover his childhood in the segregated South, his passion for invention and engineering, and his career successes with NASA and, of course, in the toy industry. Simple double-page spreads pair a large captioned photo, featuring Johnson or stock images, with a few short sentences on the opposing page. “Did You Know?” stars containing factoids periodically appear, and glossary-defined terms are printed in ’90sappropriate neon green. A “Career Connections” page offers practical advice to science-loving kids, such as participating in an after-school program or science fair, and well-chosen additional resources will help readers extend their learning.

Ven a la escuela, querido dragón / Come to School, Dear Dragon (Bilingual Beginning to Read™)

Garland ISD Library Media Services, 2016

Ven a la escuela, querido dragón / Come to School, Dear Dragon - eBook - ClassroomAs with all of Ms. Hillert’s books, this series should definitely be added to elementary libraries to enhance Spanish collections. They contain the easy-to-read texts we have come to expect from this author, dual language wording on every page, adorable illustrations, and an engaging story for the youngest reader who strives to find books to practice reading skills.

Wearable Robots (Tech Bytes)

NSTA, November 2016

From paralyzed Juliano Pinto kicking a soccer ball at the FIFA World cup to Gene Laureano being able to walk on his own again, wearable robots have changed the lives of many people in recent times. This book stands out with four fascinating chapters detailing how wearable robots have advanced through time, improved society, and benefited individuals.

In the beginning of the book, the author provides a historical perspective and then skillfully presents current efforts and results. In the final chapter she explores future ideas and endeavors. Another extraordinary feature of this book is that it incorporates stunning action photography. Some of these include vivid pictures of employees at Cyberdyne, Inc. using hybrid assisted limbs to walk across a busy street, a patient undergoing gait rehabilitation, and a worker lifting heavy loads without extra strain. These photographs allow readers to conjure exact images of real–life situations.

This book serves as a great introduction to robotic exoskeleton and the benefits of wearable robots. Its usefulness in STEM instruction is clear since students can analyze current technology, view how wearable robots are created, and investigate the patterns and precision involved. Additionally, students can create timelines to show major advancements and complete compare/contrast diagrams to reflect similarities and differences. The material is especially appropriate for middle and high school students. The section that provides references for more information will definitely propel students to view current videos and visit other websites. Indeed, the future of robotic exoskeletons is promising—can’t wait to find out when astronauts will be using wearable robots in outer space to keep them healthy! This book is highly recommended.

The Green Bay Packers (Big Picture Sports)

Booklist, October 2016

From the Big Picture Sports series, this colorful volume portrays the Green Bay Packers as a winning team in every way. Burgess takes a quick look at the team’s proud history, famous stadium, and outstanding players, as well as their current uniforms and loyal fans. Midway through the book are two playful double page features, a spot-the-differences photo quiz and a brief true-or-false quiz. The well-chosen illustrations include many photos of players (past and present), a picture of Lambeau Field during a game, a shot of “cheeseheads” in the stands, and digital U.S. and world maps indicating the team’s hometown and several players’ birth places. Clearly written and well designed to introduce primary-grade sports fans to the team, this attractive volume may also appeal somewhat to older kids.

Artifical Eyes (Tech Bytes)

Booklist, October 2016

This entry in the Tech Bytes series sets its sights on one particularly intriguing technological enhancement. Packed tight with detail, this comprehensive guide to the development and use of the artificial eye kicks off in ancient civilizations, when eye loss was common due to hand-to-hand combat and artificial eyes were still in the early stages of development. Now, eye loss is due primarily to diseases like cancer or military accidents, and artificial eyes are less about reassuring onlookers and more about maintaining the health of the face, especially for children who are still growing. This is fairly text-heavy, with occasional illustrations depicting diagrams of the eye or the creation of artificial eyes (using everything from molds to3-D printers), but the subject matter is fascinating, and this is certainly thorough enough to aid in classroom research.

3-D Printing (Tech Bytes)

NSTA, September 2016

Did you know that 3–D printing has been done in space aboard the International Space Station to make tools and that custom candy has been crafted at Hershey’s Chocolate World through 3–D printing? This book stands out with new and engaging information on 3–D printing challenging students and teachers alike to continue reading in an effort to discover the fascinating details related to each fact!

Within four chapters, 3–D Printing captivates readers by inviting them to explore the beginning of 3–D printing, travel through to its present, and finally focus on its promising future. In addition, each chapter includes specific sections with “Did you know” information as well as innovative accounts separated from the regular text. Another extraordinary feature of this book relates to the vivid graphics that are provided throughout its pages. Vibrant, real life images capture representations of these created 3–D objects ranging from piggy banks and clothing to cars and prosthetics. The visuals and detailed descriptions complement each other.

This book can be utilized by elementary and middle school students to provide background information on 3–D printing. Students may complete a timeline highlighting its advancements through the years. Teachers may select this book as a read aloud at the beginning of a unit on inventions/technology or students can read individually. The use of bolded words that are defined in the glossary serves to make concepts clearer and enhance vocabulary. Should teachers or students need more information, the last few pages of the book provide additional resources and websites. This book is definitely worth buying! With current information and stunning visuals, it will certainly arouse students’ curiosity and challenge them to continue exploring the amazing world of 3–D printing.

Read and Discover series: At the Beach, At the Pond, Fall, Groundhog Day, Helping Others, In the Sky, In the Woods, Let’s Play Basketball, Playing Together, Summer, Winter

School Library Connection, May 2016

This beginning reading series offers emerging readers a wide selection of nonfiction books. Titles cover the seasons, places to go, character development, holidays, sports, and the natural world. Each book effectively covers the subject matter while using common sight words and vocabulary. The vivid photographs are eye-catching, and complement the text well. Each book contains a word list that will allow students to practice the words with their teachers before reading the book, enabling fluency and comprehension of the material. The books also contain a Reading Reinforcement section, vocabulary builders/suggestions, foundational skills, questions to assess close reading of text, and advice on improving reading fluency. These books are interesting, yet simple enough to allow beginning readers to enjoy what they’re reading. This series is a worthwhile addition to an emerging reader library. Recommended.

Read and Discover series: Christmas, Getting Ready for Bed, Halloween, Let’s Play Football, Let’s Play Hockey, Let’s Play Soccer, Saving Money, Spring, St. Patrick’s Day, A Visit to the Aquarium, A Visit to the Firehouse, A Visit to the Library, A Visit to the Market

School Library Connection, April 2016

Using common-interest topics, this series provides fresh and friendly material for budding readers. Each book utilizes bright contrasting colored pages with high quality, close-up, colored photographs and computer generated images to illustrate the simple text. Each volume includes a Reading Reinforcement section for the educator at the end which includes a Craft and Structure section to check for understanding; Vocabulary for learning content words; Close Reading of Informational Text for reading comprehension; Fluency for reading accuracy; and a Foundational Skills section that reviews different groups of words. Collections that need a more contemporary look for their early readers would appreciate this series. Recommended.

Country Money, Family Money, World Money, Your Money (How Money Works series)

School Library Journal, Series Made Simple November 2015

Talking about money can be difficult, even for adults, but it is essential if one is to become financially independent and economically savvy. Using simple language in short, labeled paragraphs, this series contextualizes the way money works in communities, households, and the world at large, demonstrating that monetary issues don’t exist in a vacuum. The authors delineate what countries, states, and cities spend money on, such as social programs, education, housing, and healthcare, and who is responsible for making broad financial decisions. The series also explains factors that affect families, such as budgets, credit, loans, insurance, taxes, rent, and much more, in an accessible way. Colorful, simply drawn graphics enhance the text, and helpful graphs and charts are employed to add perspective and illustrate more abstract concepts. VERDICT A comprehensive start to getting students to think about money and become responsible spenders and savers.

Let’s Play Basketball, Let’s Play Football, Let’s Play Hockey, Let’s Play Soccer (Read and Discover – Sports series)

School Library Journal, Series Made Simple November 2015

These brief overviews for emergent readers can be paired with previously published stories in Norwood’s “Dear Dragon” series. (For instance, Let’s Play Football can be read alongside Touchdown, Dear Dragon.) Like the “Dear Dragon” stories, the nonfiction titles employ common sight words. Color photos add details and are well matched to the text. Most of the books depict both male and female players in the photographs. Each offering begins with a note for caregivers, and helpful appendixes include suggested reading activities and a list of the words used. VERDICT This is an acceptable series, designed with the needs of young readers in mind.

The Three Pig Sisters (MySELF Bookshelf)

School Library Journal, May 2015

This is a retelling of the classic tale, with a twist. Three pig sisters are determined not to make the same mistakes of other pigs when they set off on their own. By working together, these little ladies build one strong house and are sure they can outsmart the big, bad wolf. After their sturdy house is built, they lure the wolf to the house by making a delicious soup. After capturing him, the sisters realize that the wolf is just old and hungry. Rather than getting rid of him, they decide to put him to work in the garden and to look after the chickens. They all live happily ever after. The brightly colored and charming illustrations follow this purposeful retelling. VERDICT Despite the didactic prose, this picture book is an appealing addition for lesson planning and sparking classroom discussion.

Cailyn and Chloe Learn about Conjunctions (Language Builders)

Booklist, April 2015

Best friends Cailyn and Chloe step into the role of reporter at their neighborhood block party. Their assignment? Write an essay that shows their mastery of coordinating, correlative, and subordinating conjunctions. They find plenty of opportunities as they make their way through the party, listing foods and observing people playing games. Though slightly contrived, this is more interesting than the average grammar lesson, and Cailyn and Chloe attack the topic with enthusiasm. The digital illustrations are uninspiring, but depictions of ethnically diverse characters increase their merit. The text is interspersed with dialogue and writing samples from the girls’ notebooks that show conjunctions in action. Ending with a terminology review, glossary, writing activity, and additional resources, this entry in the Language Builders series is a practical guide with hints of Schoolhouse Rock!

Cheating, Food in Schools, Recycling, Smoking, and VIdeo Games (Matters of Opinion)

Library Media Connection, March/April 2015

Each volume focuses on a currently controversial issue and presents “Yes/No” arguments on each of three central questions, reminiscent of Opposing Viewpoints (Greenhaven Press). Each volume’s timeline puts the issue in historical context. Each opinion makes liberal use of quoted testimony, and each article is supported by captioned photographs and additional background material. What is most impressive are the footnotes, bibliography, and list of articles that comprise nearly thirty completely cited sources for each book. Each book’s author has carefully crafted arguments that are both persuasive and constructed with the best persuasive techniques and the most egregious logical fallacies. After each set of paired arguments, one of these fallacies is defined and the reader is invited to examine both arguments for examples. Highly Recommended

Friendship Quilt (MySELF Bookshelf)

Booklist, December 2014

Raddie, a little mouse, has just suffered the death of her grandmother, and she “can’t stop crying.” Interestingly, this Korean import focuses not on Raddie but on her friend Hank, who tries to cheer up Raddie. When he fails, he turns to their group of friends, and together they create a friendship quilt. All that sewing is hard work, but when they present it to Raddie, they describe its deeper meaning. In a series of pages, each set upon a different patterned background, each mouse declares what makes her or his scrap important. “This piece is from my favorite dress. I looked so pretty in it.” “This is a piece of my pillowcase. I cried in it and felt better.” It’s a simple, sweet idea, presented by Kim in a straightforward manner and illustrated by Jeong in soft watercolors that make the mice characters cuddly and reassuring. There is enough different here from similar stories to make it valuable—for example, the quick aside that Hank’s grandmother and mother are no longer living reinforces the idea that everyone has their own grief.

Kanga and Anger (MySELF Bookshelf)

Booklist Online, December 2014

Kanga is an adorable kangaroo who loves to hop and play. But he also has a short temper, so when a frilled lizard walks all over Kanga’s drawings, Kanga gets angry. He chases the lizard through the yard, and Kim depicts the young marsupial scattered all over the page, scowling and shouting while an ominous shadow spreads in front of him. Kanga gets angry at Koala, too, when he falls out of a tree and ruins Kanga’s leaf pile. Both Koala and Lizard are upset and tell Kanga they can’t be friends with him if he gets so angry all the time. That makes Kanga angry again, and he smashes his mother’s flower bed. Her anger—a stretching, giant, looming red shadow that threatens to engulf little Kanga—is a little scary, but she counts to 10, calms down, and gives Kanga a reassuring hug. Learning how to control overwhelming anger is a useful exercise at any age, and Kim’s lively and colorful collage illustrations artfully and clearly depict the emotions, driving home the meaningful message.

Food in Schools, Smoking, Video Games (Matters of Opinion)

Voices of Young Adults, December 2014

This series is targeted to readers interested in how to make passionate and logical arguments and how to analyze them. Each volume introduces a hot-button issue (e.g., smoking bans and mandated healthy school lunches) before using persuasive techniques (e.g., logical fallacy and testimonial) to explore at least two opposing views about the topic. For example, Video Games presents opinions for and against regulating the sale of violent games to children, while Smoking explores the controversy around whether people have a right to smoke.

The photographs, especially in  Video Games which includes action scenes from actual games, are interesting and exciting, but a few of the photos in Food in Schools might lead one to conclude that racially diverse children are the only consumers of free lunch. The books conclude with advice on how to incorporate persuasive techniques in a piece written by the reader. The writing section is helpful, but essay writing is presented as a formulaic process with steps, rather than as a dynamic, recursive one. This series is a great resource for students interested in details about some of today’s most talked-about social issues that impact youth.

Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers (Team Spirit – Hockey)

Voices of Young Adults, December 2014

The Detroit Red Wings tells how this team began in Canada, moved to Detroit in 1927, and finally emerged as the Red Wings in 1932. Fans called their rink the “Big Old Red Barn.” In 1979, the team moved into the new Joe Louis Arena which cost $57 million to build. A touching photo of Vladimir Konstantinov shows the injured player on the ice in a wheelchair, cradling the Stanley Cup. The Montreal Canadiens profiles the team’s rich history from 1909 to the present. Their twenty -four Stanley Cup trophies make them the most successful team in professional hockey. “Go-to Guys” include hockey legends such as Maurice Richard and Alexei Kovalev.  A 1920’s gum card of Howie Morenz appears opposite Brian Gionta in a current uniform and illustrates major equipment changes. The New York Rangers delves into the team’s struggles in a very competitive sports market. In 1994, after a fifty-four year drought, Coach “Iron Mike” Keenan led the Rangers to a Stanley Cup Victory. Mike Richter was the goalie but the “Great Debates” chapter questions whether he or “Steady Eddie” Giacomin was the best goalie. Former goalie Gump Worsley states, “The only job worse is javelin-catcher at a track and field meet!”

Each book in the series relates the story of one National Hockey League team and contains seventeen identically titled chapters full of dramatic photos and easy-to-read prose. “We Won,” outlines Stanley Cup successes. “Fun Facts” shares off-beat tidbits—Gordie Howe skated one shift at age 69. “Pinpoints” uses a world map to show the team’s location and the birthplaces of players. “Line Change” chapters provide websites and resources for ongoing information. Throughout, unfamiliar vocabulary and sports terminology are highlighted and defined in the glossary. Young fans of ice hockey will welcome this well-done series.

Recycling (Matters of Opinion)

National Science Teachers Association, October 2014

Finally, someone has published a scientifically based book that is designed to support and align with Common Core Language Arts Anchor Standards. Matters of Opinion: Recycling by Carla Mooney guides the student through the always tricky process of writing opinion pieces based on informational text.

Because this process is based on the relevant and engaging topic of recycling, it grabs and holds the intermediate and middle school learners’ focus throughout the extended time frame necessary to produce an opinion piece essay. Matters of Opinion: Recycling contains valuable resources to sustain the budding writer. Text features including timelines, captions, diagrams, glossary, and bibliography which are invaluable to the young researcher. The inclusion of model opinions supporting differing points of view create exemplars that teachers will find invaluable in sustaining the research–to revision–to opinion piece writing process.

This book is a valuable teaching tool for several reasons. Most importantly for the obvious reason that opinions matter. Throughout everyone’s lives people will bombard us with their opinions in order to influence us one way or another. It is vastly vital to learn whether those opinions are rooted in evidence and scientific data or personal beliefs. This understanding will help young adults form opinions of their own and build empathy for the beliefs of others.

Indeed this book will be used as an exhaustive guide in the Science classroom as well as Language and Social Studies curriculum. Matters of Opinion: Recycling takes a deeper look into an important issue facing the world today featuring thought–provoking questions. Addressed by a pro and con format, this book is the basis of opinion writing lessons in the Language and content area classroom. No book on this subject has taught critical thinking skills and introduced argumentative techniques in such a unique and concise manner. The book even concludes with an opportunity to further develop their skills by writing an opinion piece of their own. In my opinion, buying this book for your classroom or school library is well worth the cost.

Food in Schools (Matters of Opinion)

Booklist, October 2014

This dual-purpose entry in the Matters of Opinion series examines some controversial aspects of the national school-lunch program as case studies in analyzing information with a view toward producing a standard five-paragraph personal-opinion essay. The three central chapters present pro and con arguments for letting students eat what they want, for having student diets under federal control, and for placing the onus on schools to be responsible for their students’ weight. Each chapter closes with an analysis of the differences between the facts and the opinions cited. Step-by-step general instructions for crafting an essay head up a final section, which also includes source notes and a partially annotated resource list. Color photos, mostly of trim and not-so-trim young people, add both visual breaks and silent but cogent commentary to the easy-to-read narrative.

Team Spirit – Basketball (Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs)

Booklist, September 2014

The Team Spirit: Basketball series offers very readable introductions to pro b-ball squads. Each of the 12 heavily revised NBA books offers sections on the team’s history, arenas, uniforms, outstanding players, coaches, memorable moments, and fans. The copious illustrations, mainly color photos, often show players during games. One lively new feature is “Great Debates,” which offers opposing viewpoints on burning questions. For instance, was the Celtics greatest comeback in the 2002 playoffs or the 2008 NBA finals? Could the 2002–03 Nets have beaten the 1975–76 Nets? Who was the smartest Knick, Bill Bradley or Jerry Lucas? Was the Spurs’ best long-distance shooter Manu Ginobili or Chuck Person? Another feature uses U.S. and world maps to pinpoint one or more cities that the team has called home and the hometowns of 10 or 11 players. Apart from the decision to place text on pages fading from bright yellow to white, these volumes look better and read better than their predecessors. Replacing the volumes in the previous series on NBA teams, these books do more than update the coverage since the last editions. Most sections have been completely rewritten, re-illustrated, and improved. A good starting place for hard-court fanatics.

The Los Angeles Kings (Team Spirit – Hockey)

Booklist, April 2014

The revamped and updated Team Spirit: Hockey series is just the ticket for budding prognosticators eager to challenge one another with minutiae about their favorite squads. This volume traces the rise (and fall, and rise again) of the NHL team in L.A.—a preposterous idea at first. Begun with other teams’ rejects, the Kings eventually assembled a strong group in the 90s, building up to their defining moment: the signing of Wayne Gretzky in 1988. Each chapter digs into one element: the stadiums, the uniforms, “Go-To Guys,” coaches, and more. The fun stuff, though, is the trivia, fun facts, and “Great Debates,” which toss red meat for die-hards to fight over. Keenly illustrated with big action shots of our bearded, gap-toothed heroes and reproductions of sports cards, this makes for an excellent time on the ice.

Great Debates Series

Library Media Connection, March/April 2014

This series explores several major social and political controversies. Each book begins with a historical introduction and proceeds chronologically to show how issues change over time but remain political hot points. Some chapters are titled with questions to encourage readers to think and formulate opinions. Spreads in each chapter summarize major opposing arguments for and against the chapter’s question. Sidebars and a concluding chapter offer quotes from social and political leaders. Each book also includes “Find Your Voice” which encourages readers to examine the given evidence and take a side in the debate. These well-rounded, unbiased discussions encourage readers to question and reason, formulate and defend their positions, and anticipate counterarguments. The series plants important seeds for developing a new generation of educated voters and activists and will be a welcome addition for libraries and social science classrooms striving to integrate Common Core Standards. Glossary. Recommended.

Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice

Library Media Connection, January/February 2014

The introduction to this anthology says it the best: “These poems have been selected and arranged and offered to the reader as our contributions to living in a more socially just America.” These poems are a living, breathing example of thoughts and feelings across the years. The poems were selected purposefully and represent all walks of life. The thoughts and feelings of these poets should be read and discussed. The words and their passion should have us all think and feel about how we treat and how we are treated. This anthology would be an excellent addition to any library and an excellent resource in any classroom. Recommended

Writing Builders

School Library Journal, December 2013

“These titles provide youngsters with the steps to follow to product a well-written report, story, or piece of narrative nonfiction. Each title begins with a note from a character with important terms in bold font. Report finds Rick and Rachel learning to write a research paper using note cards to organize information. Frank and Fiona create a story as part of a contest at school in the second book. In Nonfiction, Neil and Nan brainstorm; use a graphic organizer to sort through the beginning, middle, and end of their work; and learn about descriptive and linking words, and using a hook to get readers’ attention. Each title ends with a spread that outlines the creative process the characters followed in the narrative. The children are the same ages as the target audience, and the many ideas will encourage young scribes. The text and illustrations (many full page) are nicely balanced. Solid additions for libraries with gaps to fill.”
*Books included in this review: Frank and Fiona Build a Fictional Story, Neil and Nan Build Narrative Nonfiction, Rick and Rachel Build a Research Report

Dear Dragon

School Library Journal, December 2013

“A prolific author returns with four new stories in which a child reflects on the natural world around him. The boy typically describes how his time is spent with his beloved dragon in concrete, action-driven narratives. “Dragon, Dragon, Dragon. You cannot sit all day. It is not good for you.” Clear vocabulary choices and repetition support the straightforward story lines. Visual clues extend the text; in Pond, the boy gets a bandage on his knee, and the only sentence on the page reads, “This will help.” At times, cartoon characters lack fluidity in their movements and expressions appear static. In each book, a concluding “Reading Reinforcement” section includes a brief overview of phonemic awareness, fluency, phonics, vocabulary, a word list, and text comprehension. Although there are no major surprises in these gentle outings, readers will gain confidence while exploring this boy’s quiet adventures and his great friendship with his favorite companion. “Here I am with you, Dear Dragon and here you are with me.” For those just learning to read, being “here” is indeed a good place to be.”
*Books included in this review: What’s in the Pond, Dear Dragon?; What’s in the Sky, Dear Dragon?; What’s in the Woods, Dear Dragon?; What’s in My Pocket, Dear Dragon?

A Great Idea: Engineering

School Library Journal/Series Made Simple, November, 2013

“Hitting the sweet spot between offering enough eye and mind candy to keep casual browsers riveted and yet also providing sufficient factual content to satisfy both assignment requirements and deeper interest, Lerner’s “Awesome Inventions You Use Every Day” and Norwood’s “A Great Idea: Engineering” are solid first choices.”

“Blending specific information with dramatic storytelling, these accounts of some of the world’s most ambitious construction projects all capture a sense of their awesome scale. The volumes recount massive obstacles, hazards, worker abuses, and environmental stresses. Other issues are also covered. (“The number of people who died building the Great Wall may have exceeded 1 million.”) Authors highlight the ingenious, often unique, engineering that made each project possible. Enhanced by sidebars, color photos or period images, and helpful resource lists, these titles all make riveting reading.”
*Books included in this review: The Chunnel, The Hoover Dam, The Panama Canal, The Great Wall of China


Library Media Connection, November/December 2013

“This series, with titles at different levels, takes new and somewhat difficult math concepts and simplifies them for children. The books relate math topics to the real world so that they are understandable; photographs are used for each concept. “Did you know?” sections add additional fun facts to the story. Although each book relates to a different area of mathematics, they are all relevant to the target audience and their interests. Throughout the series, science, social studies, athletics, and mathematics are tied together. These stories are a fun way to teach mathematics to young children.

Books included in review: A Day at Mini-Golf: What’s the Length?; Field of Play: Measuring the Distance, Rate, and Time; Finding the Treasure: Coordinate Grids; Hidden Ducks: Describing and Interpreting Data; Looking for Blackbeard’s Treasure: Measuring Distance; Pools to Ponds: Area, Perimeter, and Capacity; The Science Olympiad: Proportions and Ratios; Seeing Halves: Symmetry in Our World; Ship Shape: Making Shapes Fly; Space Adventure: Where Does the Time Go?; Start the Game: Geometry in Sports; Stir It Up: Mixing Decimals; Tending the Tide Pool: The Parts Make a Whole; A Toy Store Summer: Finding Area; Winning the Game: Putting Miles in Their Place

The Large Hadron Collider

Booklist, October 2013

“This short, illustrated book in the A Great Idea series introduces the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), designed to test certain theories in particle physics. Supported by many nations and built near Geneva, Switzerland, the LHC is a 16.8-mile circular tunnel. Fernandes discusses the challenging construction of the facility as well as a few of its purposes and achievements. Illustrations include photos and digitally created diagrams. The author writes in clear language, explaining most terms and concepts introduced along the way. Students who have studied some physics will especially appreciate the detailed explanations of what happens within the collider. This is one of the few books on the subject published for young people, and readers need not comprehend everything about the LHC to gain an appreciation for the accomplishment it represents.”

Lethal Weapons

Booklist, October 2013

“Part of the Great Debates series, this introduces the gun-control issue by framing questions. An overarching question, such as “Are background checks an invasion of privacy?” is followed by related questions and opposing points of view. Attractive, colorful graphics, sidebars, and photographs comprise half of each chapter. The chapters run six pages or less, presenting facts, history, and viewpoints in a compact format. With more questions than background, this entry will work best as a springboard for prompting the kind of inquiry-based discussion that’s so emphasized in the Common Core State Standards. Back matter includes a glossary and a list of other resources.”

iMath – Levels A, B, and C

School Library Journal, April 2013

“Gr 3-4–These comprehensive CCSS resources have an appealing layout and attractive photos, charts, maps, diagrams, and illustrations. The texts are a busy mix of language arts and math; each volume contains an engaging story line and information that will draw in readers. For example, Mummies combines directions about division with facts about embalming. Every book begins with “iMath Ideas,” which introduce a concept, pose a math problem, and provides strategies for getting the answer. The strategies are reiterated at the end of the book. Questions throughout encourage student engagement. Also of interest are a “Discover Activity” and an informational section that connects the discussion to science, history, or art. Each book ends with a “What Comes Next” page that gives ideas for expanding on the concepts learned and an “Additional Notes” section that provides answers to the various problems. Do not expect intense computational practice; the casual approach may work well with reluctant math students.”

“Gr 5-6–This subset provides an engaging mix of social science, language arts, and math. For example, in Designer Digs readers will get caught up in Anela’s school project that requires her to use equations for finding area to create unusual living spaces. Each book begins with a discussion of strategies and provides several methods for solving the posed problem. Student engagement is encouraged with leading questions. Additional sections include a “Discover Activity” and an informational text section that connects the math discussion to science, history, or art. Photos, maps, illustrations, charts, and diagrams aid in comprehension. Each book ends with a “What Comes Next” page that gives ideas for expanding on the concepts learned and an “Additional Notes” section that provides answers to the various problems. These volumes are not contrived collections of math activities; readers will believe the math is part of the story. This casual and creative approach will be especially helpful to reluctant math students. Overall, a comprehensive set of CCSS resources.”

Mummies in the Library: Divide the Pages

Booklist, April 2013

“Part of the iMath Readers series, this uses a thin fictional story line involving a young boy’s visit to the library for a book on mummies (thus the title) to introduce the concept of division. Division problems are woven into the story line (for example, how many days will it take the narrator to read his 160-page book?), followed by information about Egyptian mummies and a few more division problems. The information about mummies connects a range of topics to curriculum segments. For example, the page on the Great Pyramid of Giza is called “Connecting to Engineering.” This series is specifically designed to fulfill STEM and Common Core standards and should be useful to educators looking to provide titles on specific aspects of math. The mummy connection, meanwhile, might make the math lessons go down a bit easier for some.”

Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice

Booklist, March 2013

“In their introduction to this unique, timely collection, the coeditors write, “These poems have been selected and arranged and offered to the reader as our contributions to living in a more socially just America.” To that end, they have selected 54 previously published works by twentieth-century poets. The work represents a broad variety of races, cultures, and ethnicities and deals with such issues as bigotry and injustice, as well as with freedom, equality, and comity. Divided into five sections, the poems essentially chart a course from outside our culture to an inside where we can celebrate common dreams. The contributors range from the celebrated—Billy Collins, Ishmael Reed, Pat Mora, William Stafford—to the lesser known, and brief biographies of all are included in an appendix. Matthew Thomas Bush’s elegantly decorative line drawings illustrate the pages without overwhelming the selections, and a foreword from rap artist Common will help draw more attention to this thought-provoking anthology for classroom sharing, broad discussion, and individual appreciation.”