MG – Unconventional Science

Unconventional Science. ABDO Books, 2020. $23.00 ea. $138.00 set of 6. 48 p. Grades 5-8. 

Burling, Alexis. Turning Poop Into Power. 978-1-532-11901-9.
Hand, Carol. Controlling Invasive Species with Goats. 978-1-532-11898-2.
Hustad, Douglas. Cleaning Up Plastic with Artificial Coastlines. 978-1-532-11897-5.
McCarthy, Cecilia Pinto. Capturing Carbon with Fake Trees. 978-1-532-11896-8.
—. Eating Bugs as Sustainable Food. 978-1-532-11899-9.
—. Harvesting Fog for Water. 978-1-532-11900-2

This series expertly presents new scientific ideas that many adults and students never may have considered, and aims to give some explanation about the pros and cons of each idea. In four chapters, readers learn about the environmental problem which led to the idea being considered, how well the idea could work, and problems with adopting the idea as a solution. The gross factor of Eating Bugs or Turning Poop into Power may turn off readers or prove irresistible to them.  Chapters end with either compelling deeper thinking questions, or segments linking other documents to the text, again with thoughtful questions. The end matter includes glossary, index, fast facts, and further resources, and is notable for the “Stop and Think” section and the ABDO Book Links website (readers scan QR code to access resources for each specific book).

THOUGHTS: This is a well-presented, engaging format with refreshing and unusual ideas, perfect for middle school learners. ABDO has paid attention to what young learners (and their teachers) need. Librarians may want to give more attention to the various series in ABDO’s Core Library (“nonfiction for grades 3-6”). Free teaching resources are available for download via Follett’s Titlewave. (Title reviewed: Eating Bugs as Sustainable Food.)

363; 628 Science, Engineering        Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – Engineering Disasters

Engineering Disasters. ABDO Books, 2020. $23.00 ea. $138.00 set of 6. 48 p. Grades 5-8. 

Huddleston, Emma. Ford Pinto Fuel Tanks. 978-1-532-19-072-8.
—. The Johnstown Flood. 978-1-532-19073-5.
—. The New Orleans Levee Failure. 978-1-532-19074-2.
Kortemeier, Todd. Air France Flight 447. 978-1-532-19070-4
—. Chernobyl. 978-1-532-19071-1.
—.  The Space Shuttle Challenger. 978-1-532-19075-9.

This series looks at well-intentioned concepts which ultimately failed in some way. The solid format covers the disaster, the search for the cause, and the changes enacted to avoid further disasters. The text is clear and factual, with various sidebars and charts adding meaningful supplemental perspectives. A full-page “Straight to the Source” occurs twice in the book, linking another text with useful questions for further thinking and writing, while a “Stop and Think” segment is part of the well-rounded back matter of Fast Facts, glossary, index, and ABDO’s free online resources.

THOUGHTS: This is a well-presented series on major failures and how the engineering in question has changed. (Title reviewed: The Space Shuttle Challenger.)

363 Manmade Disasters            Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Talkin’ Sports (Series Nonfiction)

Talkin’ Sports. The Child’s World, 2020. $20.00 ea. $160 set of 8. 24 p. Grades 3-6. 

Buckley, James. Talkin’ Baseball. 978-150383-571-9.
—. Talkin’ Basketball. 978-150383-574-0.
—. Talkin’ Lacrosse. 978-150383-576-4.
—. Talkin’ Motor Sports. 978-150383-577-1.
—. Talkin’ Soccer. 978-150383-573-3.
Gigliotti, Jim. Talkin’ Football. 978-150383-572-6.
—. Talkin’ Golf & Tennis. 978-150383-578-8.
—. Talkin’ Hockey. 978-150383-575-7.

“Play sports? Watch sports? Talk sports!” That’s the tagline for this series highlighting special sports terms, insider phrases, comical or descriptive terms, and player nicknames. Fans of these sports will want to check up on their lingo–historical and modern-day–and add some understanding to their use of it as they go. They may even think of plenty more to add to the mix. For example, “The slugger ripped a frozen rope into the gap and pulled up with a two-bagger.” Baseball translation: “A powerful hitter smashed a line drive (further defined) between two outfielders (further defined) & ran to second base.” These books will cause laughter, and comments such as, “that’s right” or “I didn’t know that was why…” as fans feel a bit more at home watching, playing, and talking sports. For the uninitiated, these books can solidify the lingo.

THOUGHTS: A fun series suitable for upper elementary and middle school. ( Titles reviewed: Talkin’ Baseball and Talkin’ Football.)

796 Sports          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

YA – In Focus (Series Nonfiction)

In Focus. BrightPoint Press, 2020. $31.05 ea. $155.25 set of 5. 80 p. Grades 7-12.

Barton, Jen. School Shootings. 978-1-68282-721-5.
Cornell, Kari A. Fake News. 978-1-68282-715-4.
Erikson, Marty. The #MeToo Movement.  978-1-68282-717-8.
—. Refugees. 978-1-68282-719-2.
—. Transgender Rights. 978-1-68282-723-9.

The publisher declares this imprint as young adult nonfiction for struggling and ELL readers. The packaging works for young adults, who will find the physical packaging to visually blend with other on-level resources and may need to be encouraged to use these resources (if they have come to believe they cannot tackle typical young adult nonfiction).  Examples shared in the books cover current issues from worldwide perspectives. The monotony of the writing (subject-verb-complement) to suit the 4th grade reading level stunts the text and at times even deadens or disjoints the issue. For example, “Some colonists wanted to overthrow British rule. They wanted to be independent. This led to the Revolutionary War. Some colonists wrote exaggerated stories. These stories spread rumors about the government. John and Samuel Adams were cousins. They lived in Massachusetts. They wrote anti-government stories” (20). The most helpful chapters come at the end of the books, where tips to see through fake news, or how to support the #MeToo Movement, are shared.  Additional resources are few but useful.

THOUGHTS: Useful where there is a definite need for hi-lo nonfiction for young adults. (Titles reviewed were: Fake News and The #MeToo Movement.)

300s: Social Issues                Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama. The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Kokila, 2020. Unpaged. $18.99  978-0-525-55514-5. Grades 3-6. 

This tale, directed to children, is a mix of biography and moral lesson on compassion. Known today as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he grew up as Llamo Thondup in a small agrarian village in Tibet. He credits his mother as his first teacher of compassion, sowing the seeds in him to care for others’ needs above his own. She shared with others in need, she nourished plants to grow, she mothered him well (“I was a bit spoiled!”), and demonstrated patience and “warmheartedness” to all people. The book covers his life as he was (at three years old), declared to be the new Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, through the years of his training as a monk, to the core message of this book: compassion sets humans apart from other species, and while material possessions require only the five basic senses, compassion requires the mind and shows strength, not weakness. He offers suggestions: “When someone disagrees with you, rather than think they are mistaken, you must ask, Why might they feel this way?  When someone is scowling or upset or hurt, you could busy yourself with your own concerns, or you could ask, What might I do to help them?….It takes practice.” The tone is positive and encouraging, and the practical questions will help readers to understand compassion and how they can promote it in the world.

THOUGHTS: A helpful social-emotional resource to boost World Kindness Day and more.

294.3 Religious Teachings        Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elementary NF – Out of this World; Shape Shift; Swallow the Leader; Green City

Deyoe, Aaron. Out of this World: Space Travel. Minneapolis: ABDO, 2016. 978-1-62403-745-0. 24 pp. $16.95. Gr. K-4.

This book is a simple look at the various forms of space travel throughout history.   It has full color illustrations, easy to understand diagrams and graphics, and short concise sentences throughout.  It covers forms of travel such as rockets, space shuttles, Saturn V rockets, satellites, and many more.  A diagram of the International Space Station describes its various components and shows how it was assembled in stages in space.  This text also includes the latest rovers and mechanized explorers that are sending back data and are much safer than sending humans to these remote locations.  THOUGHTS: This book is a great addition to a collection of books about space and planets.  Students will be encouraged to pick a type of space travel or vehicle and research more about that topic, since this is a simplistic look at each.  This is a great “jumping off point” for such a research project.

Space Exploration     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Hesselberth, Joyce. Shape Shift. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 978-1-62779-057-4. 32pp. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

In this abstract introduction to the basic shapes of triangle, semicircle, crescent, trapezoid, rectangle, circle, oval, diamond and square, Hesselberth challenges the imagination.  First, the characters put a triangle on top of an upside down semicircle.  They imagine what that could be, and the illustrator creates a ballerina.  Then, another character imagines that the same two shapes are an elephant being carried away by balloons.  These imaginative and interesting shape shifts create many different possibilities for each combination of shapes.  At the end of the book, the author provides several combinations for the students to imagine what they could be together.  This is an interesting mash-up of learning shapes and critical and creative thinking. Each new illustration has an inset with the original two shapes to help the children see how those two shapes became the new picture. An interesting and thought provoking look at the world of shapes!  THOUGHTS:  After reading this book, the teacher could provide students with cut out shapes and have them create scenes or items using two or more shapes.  Students would need to name each shape used and then explain what it was and perhaps even generate a story to go with their shape creation.  An activity could also be created for the smart board that allows students to drag two shapes together to create a new picture or touch and identify the basic shapes presented in the book.

Shapes; Picture Book     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Smith, Danna. Swallow the Leader: A Counting Book. New York: Clarion, 2016. 978-0-544-10518-8. 32pp. $16.99. Gr. Pre-K-1.

The little orange fish begins this rhyming counting book. With each number there is an action “5 fish-Follow the Leader- Play like I play. Pretend you are me. Flap like ray.” At the number ten, the fish says to open their mouth and eat a snack, and swallow the leader.  As they gulp down the fish in front of them, they count DOWN to one again.  Until only Shark is left.  But wait, Shark is about to BURP! The bright fun graphics are visually pleasing and the happy ending is a delight.  THOUGHTS: This book is sure to be a hit with the little ones.  They are able to count, act out the motions of “flapping like a ray” and other silliness, and then count down to one again.  Of course a big BURP is always funny, and the counting begins again!  

Counting Book        Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Drummond, Allan. Green City. New York: Frances Foster Books, 2016. 978-0-374-3799-5. 36pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

On May 4, 2007, a tornado destroyed the entire town of Greensburg, Kansas, in just nine minutes. Everything was flattened: homes, offices, churches, stores, the water tower, and the school were completely gone. The day after the storm, townspeople gathered in a large emergency tent and began asking the big question: What do we want to be now? People started talking about how to build again. They agreed on ideas like designing tornado-proof houses and making sure the homes were energy efficient, but the word “green” popped up again and again as well. The ideas of sustainability and not using more than one needed resonated with the Midwesterners, and they decided to design not just green homes but an entirely green city. Loose watercolor illustrations depict the construction of super-strong, sustainable structures all over town. Sidebars highlight additional information about what sustainability looks like, and a special “Tips for Going Green” section shares ways students can incorporate some of these ideas into their own lives.  THOUGHTS:  This title is a great resource for students studying severe weather or energy efficiency. It would also make a nice read-aloud for Earth Day, and it leads itself to discussions about ways we can “go green” in our own lives.

Nonfiction Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

Understanding World History series from Reference Point Press


Allman, Toney. The Enlightenment (Understanding World History series). San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2015. 978-1-60152-740-0 81p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Understanding World History: The Enlightenment gives a concise overview of the 18th century in Europe and the Americas. Beginning with the conditions that led to the Enlightenment and concluding with how modern society is impacted by this time period, this book provides a wealth of information in short easy to understand chapters.  Each chapter has paintings, engravings and poetry from the time period in an effort to break up pages with too much text for young readers.  Every book in the Understanding World History series has sources notes, important people from the time period, and information for further research as well as an index and information on the author.



Jenson-Elliott, Cindy. Ancient Chinese Dynasty (Understanding World History series). San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2015. 978-1-60152-738-7 80p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Complete with a timeline of important events from the Ancient Chinese Dynasties, this book has it all!  Starting in the 1500s, Ancient Chinese Dynasty in the Understanding World History series covers what young readers need to know about this time period in world history.  The first chapter covers what conditions led to the dynasties and moves chronologically through time ending with the legacy that Ancient Chinese Dynasties have on modern society and the future.  As with all of the books in the Understanding World History series this one has sources notes, important people from the time period, and information for further research as well as an index and information on the author.



Marcovitz, Hal. The Making of the Atomic Bomb (Understanding World History series). San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2015. 978-1-60152-686-1 90p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

The Making of the Atomic Bomb has five short chapters, one introduction, and a wealth of information!  This, as with the rest of the titles in the series, is a great launching point for middle school researchers wanting quick and concise background information.  The pictures, diagrams, timeline, and text boxes give readers a reprieve from text heavy pages.

This is a great series for novice researchers or middle school students looking for general information on a topic.  The easy to understand facts make great quotes for essays and presentations.  I would recommend this to series to a world history teacher or a language arts teacher looking for non-fiction materials.

900s; History      Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area High School

Other titles in the series

Ancient Egypt
Ancient Greece
Ancient Rome
The Arab Spring Uprisings
The Black Death
The Decade of the 2000s
The Digital Age
Elizabethan England
The Great Recession
The History of Rock and Roll
The History of Slavery

The Holocaust

The Industrial Revolution
The Late Middle Ages
The Renaissance

The Rise of Islam
The Rise of the Nazis
Victorian England

Headstrong…Women who Changed Science

Swaby, Rachel. Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World. New York: Broadway Books, 2015. 978-0-06-222410-1. 273 p. $16.00. Gr. 9 and up.
The story behind Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science — And the World by Rachel Swaby almost sounds like fiction. In 2013, an obituary for award-winning rocket scientist Yvonne Brill opened with this now-infamous line: “She made a mean beef stroganoff.” While that may be true, is it really the most fitting way to memorialize a woman who was honored with the 2011 National Medal of Technology and Innovation? Now, thanks to Swaby’s wonderful new book, we will all know a little more about the many women (52, to be exact) who have impacted the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Swaby has included women whose stories combine the “twin pillars” of achievement and narrative – there’s a great story embedded within each profile. She also opted to cover only scientists whose life’s work has been completed (in other words, these women are no longer with us). There’s a 3-5 page profile of each woman, contextualizing her work in her field with world events of the time; for example, many Jewish scientists fled Germany during the 1930s to pursue research positions elsewhere. Some of the names are familiar, such as Rachel Carson, Sally Ride, Florence Nightingale, and Hedy Lamarr. Though the names of others may be lesser known, the scientific ripples of their discoveries are fascinating to read about.
509.2; Science, Biography    Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School
I immediately had Headstrong pegged as a worthwhile read, but Swaby’s spirited writing style was a pleasant surprise. I found myself reaching for this book again and again instead of picking up one of the many novels on my to-be-read list!

The Library of Medieval Times


The Library of Medieval Times. San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2015. 80p. $193.00 series.  $38.60 individual title. Gr. 6-12.

Allman, Toney. Medieval Medicine and Disease. 978-1-60152-656-4.

Currie, Stephen. Medieval Punishment and Torture. 978-1-60152-658-8.

Kallen, Stuart A. Medieval Food and Customs. 978-1-60152-718-9.

Nardo, Don. Medieval Knights and Chivalry. 978-1-60152-636-6.

Nardo, Don. Medieval Warfare. 978-1-60152-682-3.

The Library of Medieval Times is a great addition to any nonfiction collection.  This 5-title series highlights various aspects of medieval history and living from torture to medicine to warfare and food, while providing various primary source documentation to support explanations and understanding of this period in history.  The focus of each text is of great interest to students, especially the title about punishment and torture, and provides information not only to increase understanding of the medieval ages but also for further research.  Each individual text includes a timeline, chapters to further focus on specific aspects of the main topic, “Source Notes”, and “For Further Research”, a section providing books and websites for students to explore.  This series is a great source for world history research or comparative research in world cultures classes.

Medieval History    Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City

Each year our world cultures classes complete a required research paper.  One teacher requires a specific topic for research, while the other teacher tells students their paper has to deal with something pertaining to the world.  In other words…anything (as long as it didn’t happen in the United States).  This makes gathering sources for students, and collection development, much more challenging because topics change from class to class and year to year.  The Library of Medieval Times was a great addition to our collection for this year’s assignment.  Many students enjoy the idea of knights and medieval history, but we lacked appropriate sources.  This series breaks apart medieval times into easy, accessible topics which helps students better focus their research and writing.  This is a great series to add for world history research.  It is available both in print and eBook format.

New Titles…At Issue, Nutrition and Health, and Social Issues in Literature


Foleff, Tamara L. Beauty Pageants. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2014. 978-0-7377-6825-1. 93p. $27.00. Gr. 9 and up.

These thin volumes are full of information and statistics about contemporary issues.  Following an introduction, the book is divided into sixteen separate opinion articles about the individual topic, beauty pageants.  The publisher provides a list of organization’s contact information, bibliography, and index.  The At Issue series includes seventy-five different titles and is a good addition to middle and high school libraries.

791.66 (Public Performances)     Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

The At Issue: Beauty Queens could be used to extend current events projects, individualized research, and to make connections to the greater issue of beauty in society.  The titles in the series provide more than one viewpoint for each issue.  High school debate teams would also find the series helpful for the primary source articles contained in each title.



 Nardo, Don. Sleep Problems. Detroit. Lucent Books: 2014. 978-1-42051-150-5. 104 p. $27.00. Gr. 5 – 8.

Sleep Problems is part of a series, Nutrition and Health, geared toward middle school and junior high students.  The text is easy to read and is augmented with colorful photographs and pop out statistical charts and graphs.  Sleep disorders is a growing problem for both adults and children in the United States, and the book gives a good overview of the contributing factors to the often undetected disease.  The book has a glossary, web-site resource list, bibliography for further reading, and an easy to use index.

616.849 (Diseases and Disorders)       Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

Health classes will find this series and title helpful for student research.  However, this is a subject matter that many adults also struggle with and would be applicable for personal use.  The ease of the text and setup makes it accessible for both middle and high school students.  All of the pictures are credited, and the titles could be used as part of copyright lesson as well.



Johnson, Claudia Durst Ed. Race In The Poetry of Langston Hughes. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2014. 978-0-7377-6981-4. 168 p. $30.00 Gr. 9 and up.

This series is a best book selection.  The books in this series examine a variety of social issues in literature.  The titles are split into three parts with information equally distributed into well thought out sections.  Although there are only a few black and white photographs in these books, they are packed full of information and include in depth explanations for each article to engage readers.  Each book begins with a section titled, Introduction and Chronology, and concludes with a section listing further discussion and further readings, a bibliography, and index.

818.52 (American Literature)       Robin Burns, Salisbury High School

Each year English students conduct literary analysis, and this title touches upon many of the issues students examine for their research.  Unlike many other texts, this series does not simply list information about the author and his works.  Instead the series provides articles by various authors pertaining first to the author, the social issue (ex: race) and lastly provides a contemporary perspective to the social issue (ex: race).