Elem. – A Life Electric: The Story of Nikola Tesla

Westergaard, Azadeh. A Life Electric: The Story of Nikola Tesla. Viking, 2021. Unpaged. 978-0-593-11460-5.  Grades 1-4. $17.99.

In this picture book biography, the author tells readers how much more Nikola Tesla contributed to science than his hair-raising Tesla coil. Born during a thunderstorm in modern day Croatia, the future scientist was interested in animals, books, and electricity as a young boy. He even designed his own inventions, like a “rotating motor powered by the fast, flapping wings of sixteen June bugs.” Tesla was a good student, excelling in many subjects, but electrical engineering was his passion. Soon he came up with an innovative way to transmit electricity over long distances by sending electric currents back and forth on a wire. Tesla traveled to the United States to share his discovery. There he met businessman George Westinghouse and they worked together to develop the electric motor. This invention was presented at the 1893 Chicago World Fair to much acclaim. Sadly, the Wizard of Electricity did not profit much from his creation due to unfortunate business decisions. Although Nikola died alone and poor in New York in 1943, over two thousand prominent scientists, businessmen, and artists attended his funeral. As one friend observed, “So far reaching is his work… should Tesla’s work be suddenly withdrawn-darkness would prevail.”  The back matter provides more biographical details, vintage photographs, and suggested readings.  Sarda’s illustrations are rendered digitally and have a folk art quality.

THOUGHTS: This is an intriguing life story of this important, but underappreciated, inventor, whose electrical discoveries are so crucial to the modern world. By revealing Tesla’s non-technical interests such as poetry and caring for hungry or injured pigeons, the author has presented a unique portrait of the man. This text works as a good introduction to electricity units and is a worthwhile purchase for elementary collections.

Biography  92, 921          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
621.3092 Electrical Engineering

Elem. – Fascinating Facts (Series NF)

Fascinating Facts. The Child’s World, 2021. $19.95 ea. $239.40 set of 12. 24 p. Grades 2-5. 

Kruesi, Liz. Inventions. 978-1503844698.
—. Space. 978-1503844636.
Lassieur, Allison. Natural Disasters. 978-1503844681.
—. Scary Stuff. 978-1503844704.
Pearson, Marie. Dogs. 978-1503844629.
Peterson, Sheryl. U.S. Presidents. 978-1503844599.
Smibert, Angie. Engineering. 978-1503844612.
—. Math. 978-1503844643.
York, M.J. Dinosaurs. 978-11503844667.
. Earth. 978-1503844650.
—. History. 978-1503844605.
—. Human Body. 978-1503844674.

Did you know that Theodore Roosevelt had a photographic memory? Or that Chester Arthur was a clotheshorse who owned 80 pairs of shoes? These are just some of the presidential tidbits shared in the U.S. Presidents volume of the Fascinating Facts series. Each volume explores unusual and unique facts and stories on a given subject. Facts are grouped together by chapter (for example, the U.S. Presidents book chapters included “Life in the White House,” “First Families,” and “Strange but True Tales.”) The text is accompanied by numerous sidebars as well as photos on each page. A glossary as well as links to web resources are also included.

THOUGHTS: Perfect for aficionados of fact-style books, this series is a worthwhile additional purchase for elementary collections.

363.34-973.09 Science, Math, Animals, History          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD  

The world is a mysterious place, filled with lots of unique and bizarre stories! This series focuses on some of the most odd stories of the world, including stories about the human body, space, natural disasters, and scary stuff. The Reviewer read Natural Disasters and Scary Stuff. Natural Disasters showcases some of the most iconic types of natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis, volcanoes, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Each section of this book describes what the natural disaster is, in addition to presenting unique stories about each. Scary Stuff displays some of the most iconic scary items found throughout the world, such as vampires and werewolves! Scary Stuff shares some legends of these scary items, in addition to ways to prevent and/or save yourself from the monsters that go bump in the night.

THOUGHTS: This series is very well done. It includes a lot of information that is presented with colorful visuals and pictures, both photographs and illustrations.

363.34-973.09                    Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – 10-Minute Makers (Series NF)

10-Minute Makers. Capstone Press, 2020. $23.99 ea. $239.90 set of 10. 32 p. Grades 3-6. 

Enz, Tammy. 10-Minute Game and Gadget Projects. 978-1-496-68090-7.
—. 10-Minute Upcycled Projects. 978-1-496-68091-4.
Harbo, Christopher. 10-Minute Drawing Projects. 978-1-496-68089-1.
—. 10-Minute Origami Projects. 978-1-496-68088-4.
Schuette, Sarah L. 10-Minute Art Projects. 978-1-543-59094-4.
—. 10-Minute Duct Tape Projects. 978-1-543-59098-2.
—. 10-Minute Engineering Projects. 978-1-543-59093-7.
—. 10-Minute Paper Projects. 978-1-543-59096-8.
—. 10-Minute Science Projects. 978-1-543-59095-1.
—. 10-Minute Yarn Projects. 978-1-543-59097-5.

10-Minute Engineering Projects contains thirteen different engineering projects that students can complete with simple materials from around the house. Many projects, including Parking Garage, Kickball, and Marble A-Maze-ing require simple materials such as cardboard, tape and scissors, while others require materials that might be a little more difficult to find. For example, Magnet Plane requires a craft magnet and a bar magnet to function. Each project is written in simple step-by-step numerical directions and are accompanied by pictures of each step. Also included are photographs of the final project as well as tips for using it. All of the projects range in complexity from three steps to six, but they all have one thing in common: engineering is at the core of every one. Every project shows how engineers incorporate movement, balance, and stability to solve puzzles and make work easier.

THOUGHTS: In recent years, the push for STEM has become greater in school districts around Pennsylvania. This book is perfect for elementary teachers or makerspace facilitators who may need a quick and easy project to use in their classroom. But it is also perfect for young students who have an interest in engineering. Each project is written in kid-friendly language, and full of color photographs demonstrate what the product should look like every step of the way. This book is a great nonfiction addition to any elementary library, especially in schools that are STEM-focused.

620  Engineering          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Elementary series NF – Real Monsters; Our Renewable Earth; Olympic Biographies; Be an Engineer

Real Monsters (series). Abdo Publishing, 2017. $21.68 ea. 32p. Gr. 3 – 5.

Bernhardt, Carolyn. Gila Monster: Venomous Desert Dweller. 978-1-68078-420-6.

Harvey, Jillian L., Komodo Dragon: Toxic Lizard Titan. 978-1-68078-421-3.

Leusted,  Marcia Amidon. Tasmanian Devil: Savage Island Scavenger. 978-1-68078-423-7.

Polinsky, Paige V. Spotted Hyena: Cackling Carnivore of the Savanna. 978-1-68078-422-0.

Polinsky, Paige V. Giant Centipede: Colossal Creeper of the Night. 978-1-68078-418-3.

Polinsky, Paige V.  Giant Squid: Mysterious Monster of the Deep. 978-1-68078-419-0.

Spotted Hyena: Cackling Carnivore of the Savanna begins with a good table of contents, and has a very good introductory “Creature Feature” page with many of the basic facts (name, class, size , life span) as well as a world map showing the range and diet of the hyena. The book addresses legends, then moves on to educational facts. The cover and the series title are geared toward the more monstrous aspects of the species, and some of the contents reflect this. THOUGHTS: More recent books focusing on specific animals without a an agenda (biggest, scariest) are few and far between. This is not one of them, but it does have good information and the pictures are adequate.

Animals            Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Rivera, Andrea. Zoom In on Our Renewable Earth. ABDO Zoom, 2017. $18.95 ea. $113.70 set of 6. 24p. Gr. K-2.

Conservation. 9781680799385.

Plants. 9781680799392.

Recycling. 9781680799408.

Solar Power. 9781680799415.

Water. 9781680799422.

Wind Power. 9781680799439.

This series is geared toward the younger elementary set.  Wind Power looks at the basic ideas of wind and how it can be used to make electricity. The text is quite general with some keywords, such as “turbine,” that are explained in the glossary. It also covers a range of topics such as engineering, art, and math. THOUGHTS:  If your school is excited about renewable resources, this is a good series to introduce the concept to the youngest readers.

Science           Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Lajiness, Katie. Big Buddy Olympic Biographies (series). Abdo Publishing, 2017. $19.95 ea. Set of 6 $119.70.  32p. Gr. 2 – 5.

Ibtihaj Muhammad: Olympic Fencer. 9781680785548.

Katie Ledecky: Olympic Swimmer. 9781680785531.

Laurie Hernandez: Olympic Gymnast. 9781680785524.

Michael Phelps: Olympic Swimmer. 9781680785555.

Simone Biles: Olympic Gymnast. 9781680785500.

Usain Bolt: Olympic Sprinter. 9781680785517.

This series is notable not only for the quality information and the professional pictures, but also for highlighting women athletes. These biographies cover birthplace and training, as well as important milestones in the athlete’s career. It does focus on the Rio Olympics, and the further out they get the more dated this biographies will be. Yet some will be lasting because their Olympic careers are over. THOUGHTS: I love this series! It has the fastest runner (not from the US) as well as high profile women athletes. It’s great to expose young readers to success stories that are not just USA (Usain Bolt) and diverse females that don’t usually get coverage (Ibtihaj Muhammad).

Sports Biographies        Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Be An Engineer: Designing to Solve Problems (series). Crabtree, 2017. 24 pp. $17.95 each. Gr. 2-5.

Burns, Kylie. A Bridge Goes Over. 979-0-7787-2907-5.

Burns, Kylie. A Skyscraper Reaches Up. 979-0-7787-2904-4.

Sikkens, Crystal. A Dam Holds Back. 979-0-7787-2905-1.

Sikkens, Crystal. A Tunnel Runs Through. 979-0-7787-2903-7.

Engineers solve problems. It’s as simple as that, but much more complex is the process that gets them there. Whether building a bridge, a tunnel, a dam, or a building, each engineer uses science, math, and creative thinking to work out the problem. Each book in this series flows from an example problem to explaining the role of an engineer and the problem solving process. Then there are plenty of structure specific examples with photographs and captions to lead the reader to a model activity at the end. Also included are resource lists, online codes, glossaries, and indexes. Be an Engineer!: Designing to Solve Problems is a great way to open the eyes of young innovators to the structures that support us every day!  THOUGHTS: This series complements well with themes of STEAM and inquiry science and future careers. The predictable pattern of each book makes them comparable for small group projects, note taking or discussion. Visually they are a good blend of pictures, colors, and descriptions to hold the reader’s attention.

620, Engineering      Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

MS series NF – Figurative Language; Engineering; Energy


Johnson, Robin. Figuratively Speaking series. St. Catherines, Ontario: Crabtree, 2016.  32 p. $20.75 ea. $83.00 set. Gr. 5-8

Understanding Personification. 978-0-7787-1777-5.

Understanding Metaphors. 978-0-7787-1776-8.

Understanding Similes. 978-0-7787-1775-1.

Understanding Sayings. 978-0-7787-1778-2.

This series is visually appealing, combining recent images and colorful fact boxes. Each volume begins with a foundation of the topic and is then crafted into four sections entitled, Figure it Out!, Talking About It!, Write About It!, and Now It’s Your Turn!. The books also support a five step writing process with clear examples. In the book Understanding Sayings, one topic is the saying from Aesop’s Fables “The Crow and the Pitcher.” The sayings include “eat crow”, “little by little does the trick”, and “necessity is the mother of invention”. This allows for discussion with students to define prior to reading and then after reading the fable. In the book Understanding Metaphors, there is a section called Understanding Metaphors in Poetry. An excerpt from “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes is included. This exposes students to different vocabulary words. Thoughts: I chose to use Understanding Sayings and Understanding Metaphors  to supplement lessons for sixth grade. Because the books are highly visual with colorful photographs, the book was shared to the class using the document camera. While this series provides examples for teachers to use with instruction, students may not necessarily select this book for independent reading prior to being introduced to the series.

428; Figurative Language, Idioms      Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School



Engineering in Action series. St. Catherines, Ontario: Crabtree, 2016.  32 p. $20.75 ea. Gr. 5-8.

Rooney, Anne. Agricultural Engineering and Feeding the Future. 978-0-7787-7504-1.

Sjonger, Rebecca. Geotechnical Engineering and Earth’s Materials and Processes. 978-0-7787-7506-5.

Sjonger, Rebecca. Biomedical Engineering and Human Body Systems. 978-0-7787-7505-8.

Snedden, Robert. Materials Engineering and Exploring Properties. 978-0-7787-7514-0.

The page layout is reminiscent of a scrapbook including colorful or historical pictures, and notes that appear clipped or pinned to the page. Agricultural Engineering includes topics such as photosynthesis and feature biographies including Jethro Tull. Human body system charts and ways to improve design are found in the Biomedical Engineering. Materials Engineering explains the Periodical Table and prototypes. Geotechnical Engineering includes a lively diagram of the rock cycle and architectural marvels such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Channel Tunnel.  Each book contains a challenge to test out the career field followed by additional books and online information, a glossary and index. The titles listed above are the most current publications in the large series. THOUGHTS: This series allows students to explore areas of science that interest them while providing several activities for students to see if the career might be just right for them.  Make guidance counselors aware of the series to enhance their lessons or so they can share with students aspiring to enter STEM fields.

600s; STEM   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School



Next Generation Energy series. St. Catherines, Ontario: Crabtree, 2016.  32 p. $20.75. each. $249.00 set. Gr. 5-8.

Bow, James. Energy From Earth’s Core: Geothermal Energy. 978-0-7787-1979-3.

Bow, James. Energy From the Sun: Solar Power. 978-0-7787-1982-3.

Bow, James. Earth’s Climate Change: Carbon Dioxide Overload. 978-0-7787-1978-6.

Dickmann, Nancy. Fracking: Fracturing Rock to Reach Oil and Gas Underground. 978-0-7787-1984-7.

Dickmann, Nancy. Energy From Nuclear Fission: Splitting the Atom. 978-0-7787-1981-6.

Dickmann, Nancy. Burning Out: Energy from Fossil Fuels. 978-0-7787-2372-1.

Dickmann, Nancy. Leaving our Mark: Reducing our Carbon Footprint.  978-0-7787-2381-3.

Dickmann, Nancy. Energy From Water: Hydroelectric, Tidal, and Wave Power.  978-0-7787-2380-6.

Kopp, Megan. Putting Earth First: Eating and Living Green.  978-0-7787-2382-0.

Kopp, Megan. Living in a Sustainable Way: Green Communities. 978-0-7787-2000-3.

Kopp, Megan. Energy From Wind: Wind Farming.  978-0-7787-1983-0.  

Stuckey, Rachel. Energy From Living Things: Biomass Energy.  978-0-7787-1980-9.

A wide range of topics including the  history of climate change, solar design, the role of geysers, renewable biomass, wind power issues, ecological footprint, composting, carbon offsets, nuclear fuel, use of fossil fuels, tidal power, and the basics of fracking is covered in this middle level series. Fact boxes have rewind and fast forward features and you choose features that push the reader to analyze beyond their situation. Activities allow students to put the content into  experiments. The books are presented in an organized layout with terms in bold font, topics in larger fonts, and captions to add to illustrations. Each book contains a glossary and a listing of books and websites to consult for the topics. THOUGHTS: Inspire additional reading for students and to correlate with standards in STEM research projects with this series. The experiments could be used in a class demonstration or as an interactive book talk with a class.

Science, Technology, Engineering   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Great Achievements in Engineering…a new series from ABDO

Great Achievements in Engineering (series).  Minneapolis, MN: ABDO Publishing, 2015. 112 p. $23.95 ea. Gr. 9-12 
Amazing Feats of Aerospace Engineering  978-1-62403-425-1
Amazing Feats of Biological Engineering  978-1-62403-426-8
Amazing Feats of Civil Engineering  978-1-62403-427-5
Amazing Feats of Electrical Engineering  978-1-62403-428-2
Amazing Feats of Environmental Engineering 978-1-62403-429-9
Amazing Feats of Mechanical Engineering  978-1-62403-430-5
The field of engineering is becoming even more prevalent in today’s world, and this series seeks to inform the reader of recent inventions and technologies within engineering.  All of the books focus on about three main topics, such as driverless cars, the International Space Station, and solar panels, and include bright photographs along with interesting facts. The last few pages of the books include one special hands-on project for students to conduct, along with questions for after the project is completed, steps for students to take if they were planning a career in the specific engineering field, essential facts, and a glossary.  These books are helpful primarily for a student who’s interested in the topic and would read the entire book, though they could also be used for research on specific inventions and technologies within the book.
Engineering; 620s   Nicole Starner, Biglerville HS/Upper Adams MS