Digging into the Past | History Series Nonfiction

From the ancient realms of China and Egypt through the birth of modern technology, a variety of approaches bring history to life this season. Graphic novel format, video links, and tomb raider avatars are a few of the methods used to engage readers.

From the ancient realms of China and Egypt through the birth of modern technology, a variety of approaches bring history to life this season. Graphic novel format, video links, and tomb raider avatars are just a few of the methods used to engage readers. Debates of historical myths versus facts and after-reading questions lead readers back into the text and spark discussions. Sidebars offer ­additional details on 3-D printers as compared to ancient techniques or Woody Guthrie’s folk songs about the Dust Bowl. ­Archival photos and other illustrations ­enrich the text and support readers, offering a glimpse into the events and personalities involved. Whether a series covers specific eras or uses a thematic approach, the information is presented in ways designed to draw in readers.



Gieseke, Tyler. Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. ISBN 9781532169861.
––––. Egyptian Mummies. ISBN 9781532169878.
––––. Egyptian Tombs. ISBN 9781532169885.
––––. Great Pyramid of Giza. ISBN 9781532169892.
––––. The Great Sphinx. ISBN 9781532169908.
––––. King Tut. ISBN 9781532169915.
ea vol: 32p. (Ancient Egypt). Abdo/DiscoverRoo. Aug. 2021. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 2-3 –Ancient Egypt fascinates readers of all ages with its mummies, pyramids, and tombs full of treasure. Each book in this series focuses on one area of interest, such as mythology or King Tut himself. Plentiful photographs show the Great Sphinx, the Nile, and golden death masks. Text boxes offer extra “Did You Know?” facts like, “all cats were blessed.” A time line of famous pyramids or the steps of mummification are included in a “Dig Deeper” section. A unique feature of these books is the QR codes that offer access to videos, additional information, links to other online resources, and PDF activity files. Readers can design their own sarcophagus, work puzzles, or solve a maze. Each book ends with a page of questions to make text-to-self, to-text, or to-world connections. VERDICT A great mix of text, visuals, and online resources to extend the learning for class studies or individual pleasure.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Barghoorn, Linda. Lost Tombs and Treasure. ISBN 9781427151063.
Eason, Sarah. Fakes and Hoaxes. ISBN 9781427151049.
Hudak, Heather C. Lost Kings and Kingdoms. ISBN 9781427151056.
O’Brien, Cynthia. Mysterious Disappearances. ISBN 9781427151070.
Spilsbury, Louise. Alien Visitations. ISBN 9781427151025.
––––. Earth’s Most Mysterious Places. ISBN 9781427151032.
ea vol: 32p. (History Raiders). Crabtree. Jul. 2021. Tr. $27.60.
Gr 4-6 –Titles in this series combine historical facts with the History Raider narrator. Madison Maverick, a Lara Croft type explorer, encourages readers to “jot down evidence” and try to solve the mysteries using details from her field notes. A ”Mystery Solved?” section in the back matter allows readers to compare their own conclusions with that of experts. Photographs accompanied by detailed captions show the treasures of the pyramids, the walls of Angkor Wat, and other sights. The mysteries are chosen from around the world and throughout various time periods. Each book offers theories and the facts known so far. Methods used for current exploration such as LIDAR, drones, and DNA testing are also explained. Books and websites for further investigation are suggested. VERDICT Whether students are interested in the Bermuda Triangle or the lost Princess Anastasia, they will enjoy the interactive way the material is presented.

Gagne, Tammy. Fact and Fiction of American Colonization. ISBN 9781532195082.
––––. Fact and Fiction of American Invention. ISBN 9781532195099.
––––. Fact and Fiction of the American Revolution. ISBN 9781532195105.
Gale, Ryan. Fact and Fiction of the Civil War. ISBN 9781532195112.
Hustad, Douglas. Fact and Fiction of the Space Age. ISBN 9781532195129.
London, Martha. Fact and Fiction of the Wild West. ISBN 9781532195136.
ea vol: 48p. (Fact and Fiction of American History). Abdo/Core Library. Aug. 2021. Tr. $32.79.
Gr 4-6 –Apocryphal stories abound in history; tales like George Washington and the cherry tree, for example. This series addresses such stories, common misconceptions, and forgotten or overlooked figures and events. Everything from misinformation about Paul Revere’s ride found in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem to whether battlefield surgery in the Civil War was done with or without anesthesia is covered in the various titles. “Straight from the Source” passages offer material from historical documents or modern researchers. Readers are challenged to rewrite it for a different audience, causing them to consider the information from a different viewpoint. Sidebars offer additional details, while archival photos and other images also support the text. A “Further Evidence” box sends readers to Abdo Core Library’s online access to resources from museums, the National Park Service, and similar sites. ­VERDICT A well-researched series that will spark vigorous discussion in the classroom.

Gitlin, Martin. The Birth of Modern Tech. ISBN 9781534187436.
––––. The Great Depression. ISBN 9781534187375.
––––. Postwar America. ISBN 9781534187399.
––––. The Reagan Era. ISBN 9781534187429.
––––. The Rise of Environmentalism. ISBN 9781534187412.
––––. The Roaring 20s and Prohibition. ISBN 9781534187368.
––––. Social Revolution and Civil Rights. ISBN 9781534187405.
––––. The War Years. ISBN 9781534187382.
ea vol: 32p. (American Eras: Defining Moments). Cherry Lake. Aug. 2021. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 4-8 –This series covers eras from the 1920s through the arrival of modern technology. Major events are highlighted. The narrative does not avoid difficult topics, such as discrimination or groups who disagreed with the government or the status quo. Archival photos of flappers, the Dust Bowl, and the Freedom Riders bring pivotal moments to life for modern readers. Sidebars look at related topics such as protest songs, and then ask questions to encourage thinking and discussion. The “Research & Act” section offers suggestions of topics to explore further that are still relevant today, such as looking at current poverty rates compared to the Great Depression. Each title ends with a time line to summarize the events covered. VERDICT An excellent resource for American history classes, with plenty of discussion starters and suggestions for further study.

Gunasekara, Mignonne. Death by Atrocious Animals. ISBN 9781636911687.
––––. Death by Awful Accidents. ISBN 9781636911670.
––––. Death by Blundering Bodies. ISBN 9781636911656.
––––. Death by Frightful Food. ISBN 9781636911663.
ea vol: 32p. (Disastrous Deaths). Bearport. Aug. 2021. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-6 –Those interested in the gruesome and morbid will find plenty to explore in this series. The table of contents is listed on a tombstone, and a collection of “weird” phrases about death like, “kicked the bucket” begins each book. Within the pages are incredible stories of those who have died by a tortoise falling on their head, tripping on their own beard, or equally odd events. Background on each figure and details about their era in history are included. Those details create an image of the world that each character knew—whether Thames muckrakers or Greek theatergoers. Photos of locations, paintings, or statues of the deceased are included where possible. A glossary defining unusual words and a booklist for further reading are in the back matter. VERDICT Perfect for fans of Georgia Bragg’s How They Croaked; sections could also be used to introduce particular time ­periods in social studies classes.

Hoena, Blake. Inside the Volcano: Michael Benson’s Story. illus. by Alexandra Conkins. ISBN 9781644875476.
––––. Shark Attack!: Bethany Hamilton’s Story. illus. by Tate Yotter. ISBN 9781644875490.
––––. Trapped in Antarctica: Shackleton and the Endurance. illus. by Alexandra Conkins. ISBN 9781644875513.
Rathburn, Betsy. Escaping the Nazis: Jan Baalsrud’s Story. illus. by Tate Yotter. ISBN 9781644875469.
––––. Lost in the Amazon: Juliane Koepcke’s Story. illus. by Tate Yotter. ISBN 9781644875483.
––––. Stranded at Sea: Steve Callahan’s Story. illus. by Alexandra Conkins. ISBN 9781644875506.
ea vol: 24p. (True Survival Stories). Bellwether/Black Sheep. Aug. 2021. Tr. $29.95.
Gr 4-5 –Graphic novel format brings these stories to life visually, with action-packed scenes of shark attacks, shipwrecks, and plane crashes. Red text indicates when historical quotes are used within the story of each harrowing adventure. Panel layout varies to maintain interest, but the flow of the narrative is easy to follow. Back matter includes a map showing the location of the incident or the route to safety and a bulleted list of additional facts about each figure. Time lines show the start of each story, major points along the way, and the date each individual returned to their lives. A list of suggested books for further reading is provided. The publisher’s Factsurfer website offers readers access to additional content for each title. VERDICT These books will appeal to reluctant readers and thrill seekers alike with limited text and captivating images.

Jones-Radgowski, Jehan. The Emancipation Proclamation Inkstand. ISBN 9781496695772.
Micklos Jr., John. Lewis and Clark’s Compass. ISBN 9781496695789.
––––. The Spotsylvania Stump. ISBN 9781496695796.
––––. Thomas Jefferson’s Writing Desk. ISBN 9781496695765.
Pryor, Shawn. The Greensboro Lunch Counter. ISBN 9781496695802.
Yomtov, Nel. Plymouth Rock. ISBN 9781496695413.
ea vol: 48p. (Artifacts from the American Past). Capstone. Aug. 2021. Tr. $31.99.
Gr 4-6 –This series offers a unique way to approach historical events that will appeal to history buffs. Things as different as a brass inkstand and a lowly stump serve as reminders of major events when their stories are told. Each title gives the background of the individuals involved and the events, as well as describing the part each object played. Sidebars address related topics such as the way female, Indigenous, and Black persons were affected by events. Text boxes provide additional facts, while archival photos, images, and maps show the key players and places. A section in the back matter offers a list of museums, parks, historical sites, and other sources for further exploration. There are also suggested books and internet sites. VERDICT This series will serve well for research projects and offers a unique way to introduce important events.

Wells, Allen R. Code Makers and Code Breakers. ISBN 9781731649034.
––––. Hidden Soldiers and Spies. ISBN 9781731648938.
––––. Homefront Heroes. ISBN 9781731649027.
––––. Journalists. ISBN 9781731649010.
ea vol: 32p. (Beyond the Battlefield). Rourke/High Tide. Aug. 2021. Tr. $27.50.
Gr 4-9 –The books in this series highlight groups and individuals whose contributions during wartime have only recently been publicized. Many of those featured are women, people of color, or noncombatants. Choctaw Code Talkers, the Soviet Night Witches, and daring journalists are a few of those introduced. Sidebars include discussions of how groups such as Black or Native American soldiers were treated at home. Each book includes a “Memory Game” that asks readers to recall what was covered on the page where each image in the game appeared. A guide to before- and during-reading activities appears in each book, including an introduction to key vocabulary words. There are also a few after-reading questions and a suggested activity to direct readers back to the text for further thinking. VERDICT This series offers unique perspectives beyond the usual wartime ­battle coverage.


Upper Middle School to High School

Bergin, Sean. The Chinese Invent Papermaking. ISBN 9781499469134.
Cunningham, James. The Chinese Invent Printing. ISBN 9781499469226.
Fitch, Kevin. The Chinese Invent the Compass. ISBN 9781499469165.
Grey, Quinn. The Coolest Chinese Actors and Actresses. ISBN 9781499471250.
Murphy, John. The Chinese Invent Gunpowder. ISBN 9781499469196.
ea vol: 48p. (Crazy Cool China). Rosen. Aug. 2021. Tr. $31.80.
Gr 7 Up –When students think of inventions, the image in their minds is probably something like Thomas Edison in a lab coat. But these books take items and processes ubiquitous in today’s world and trace their earliest iterations back to Ancient China. Each title focuses on one of the “Four Great Inventions’’ and how it has influenced civilization, while a fifth highlights today’s top Chinese actors and actresses. The origin of each invention and its iterations over time are covered, while sidebars discuss inventors or early uses. Images comparing a Song Dynasty compass with a GPS app on a smartphone show how far these inventions have advanced and how much today’s technology owes to those long ago beginnings. The book on actors feels out of place alongside the historical topics. VERDICT An excellent series for world history classes, as well as a resource for collaboration between science and social studies units.

Students often wonder how history ­relates to their own lives. Series such as “Crazy Cool China” trace inventions like paper and the compass through time to their current uses in GPS and mass media. Abdo/Core Library’s “Fact and Fiction of American History” starts with common myths and misconceptions of history that are familiar to readers, and then lays out the facts that refute those stories. And for those who are fascinated by the allure of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, Crabtree’s “History Raiders” provides a narrator who shares her field notes and encourages readers to look at the clues and solve the puzzles for themselves. Readers may be involved in class projects or pursuing their own interests, but there are plenty of ­options to satisfy both needs.

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