Problem-solving Techies: Careers & Skills | Series Nonfiction

Prepare kids and teens for the workforce with these series on coding, social media, and more.


Today’s students are unlikely to be pigeonholed when it comes to future job prospects. Interdisciplinary options abound, derived from personal interests, social activism, and evolving technologies. These series reflect this variety and range from a single career field, as in Cavendish Square’s “Exploring Theater,” to high-interest choices in the Child’s World’s “Dangerous Jobs in Action” and Capstone’s “Behind the Glamour.” The offerings also differ in approach, as in Rosen YA’s “Social Media Career Building,” where an engaging narrative provides students with the big picture or sociological context. Others rely on bold visuals and minimal text to stimulate interest. This diversity of presentation broadens the appeal and audience, particularly in differentiating for dependent readers.


Baxter, Roberta. Bomb Squad Technicians in Action. ISBN 9781503816275.

Monnig, Alex. Stunt Performers in Action. ISBN 9781503816336.

––––. SWAT Team Members in Action. ISBN 9781503816343.

Omoth, Tyler. Deep-Sea Fishermen in Action. ISBN 9781503816282.

––––. Fighter Pilots in Action. ISBN 9781503816299.

––––. Oil Rig Workers in Action. ISBN 9781503816312.

Rea, Amy C. Ice Road Truckers in Action. ISBN 9781503816305.

Westmark, Jon. Smoke Jumpers in Action. ISBN 9781503816329.

ea vol: 32p. (Dangerous Jobs in Action). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. The Child’s World. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $27.07.

Gr 3-5 –What better way to communicate the dangers inherent in a risky occupation than by sharing the stories of real men and women at work? Job details (conditions, equipment, safety concerns, etc.) are integrated into the narrative. Deep-Sea Fishermen, Smoke Jumpers, and Oil Rig Workers also stress the importance of learning about nature and unpredictable weather systems. Captioned photos on every page show the working environs, tools, and men and women in typical work-related clothing. “Think About It” sections pose open-ended questions for students to consider. VERDICT This series on high-interest jobs is notable for its emphasis on safety, teamwork, and problem-solving. A solid addition sure to entice browsers.

Boone, Mary. Behind-the-Scenes Music Careers. ISBN 9781515748984.

Hammelef, Danielle S. Behind-the-Scenes Movie Careers. ISBN 9781515748991.

––––. Behind-the-Scenes Pro Sports Careers. ISBN 9781515748960.

Henneberg, Susan. Behind-the-Scenes Fashion Careers. ISBN 9781515748977.

ea vol: 64p. (Behind the Glamour). further reading. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $31.32.

Gr 3-5 –Students may dream of becoming a pro athlete or rock star, but these titles showcase supporting careers that are equally important. Fashion Careers, for example, proposes photographers, designers, buyers, and stylists as options for those who have a strong sense of style and love clothes. Each title explores 10 jobs along with question-and-answer sections and tips from people in the field. A team doctor in Pro Sports describes his excitement about advances in technology to treat athletes’ injuries so they may participate in their sport longer. In Movie Careers, a casting agent notes an actor “has the look we’re seeking” or was “late to audition; claimed traffic was bad.” Sidebar information includes salary, education, skills, and job title variations. Although comprised mostly of stock photos, the graphics are nonetheless bright and appealing. There is no index, but further inquiry is encouraged. VERDICT Ready-to-start activities, practical tips, and realizable job options make these strong choices for wannabe glamour seekers.

Spilsbury, Louise & Richard Spilsbury. At the Poles. ISBN 9781482459708.

––––. In Space. ISBN 9781482459746.

––––. In the Desert. ISBN 9781482459784.

––––. In the Rainforest. ISBN 9781 482459821.

––––. Under the Ground. ISBN 9781 482459869.

––––. Under the Ocean. ISBN 9781 482459906.

ea vol: 48p. (Science on Patrol). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $31.95.

Gr 3-6 –Appealing to the adventurous side of science buffs, this series is geared toward students who thrive working outdoors. Dangerous animals, deadly insects, extreme temperatures, and flooding are described as just a few of the challenges that await potential recruits. Chapters offer details about the work, gear, new technology, discoveries, and survival tips. A few problem-solving questions ask readers, “Why might people need to evacuate from an underground laboratory?” and “Should the poles be left free from all interference, even from scientists?” Color-blocked formatting allows text and image to adeptly work together to communicate the big picture: the future health and stability of Earth rides on the work being done by these professions. VERDICT With great integration of biome facts and content vocabulary, this set is a call to arms for young scientists and a top-choice for upper elementary students.

Middle to High School

Allen, John. Careers in Environmental and Energy Technology. ISBN 9781682821107.

Hulick, Kathryn. Careers in Robotics. ISBN 9781682821183.

Roberts, Laura. Careers in Gaming. ISBN 9781682821121.

Steffens, Bradley. Careers in Internet Technology. ISBN 9781682821145.

––––. Careers in Medical Technology. ISBN 9781682821169.

ea vol: 80p. (High-Tech Careers). chart. ebook available. further reading. index. photos. websites. ReferencePoint. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $29.95.

Gr 5 Up –These books explore the impact of technology and how it has revolutionized traditional fields. In Medical Technology, biomedical engineers create artificial ears using 3-D bioprinters, and in Gaming, it is noted that Pokémon Go was designed to get gamers out of the house and interacting with the world around them. Eight jobs are profiled per title, and the seven-page entries contain new developments, areas of study, working conditions, education and training, outlook, and opportunities for advancement—headings also used in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). Not surprisingly, demand for these careers is exceptionally high. An interview, a listing of related jobs obtained from the OOH, and other appended resources will help students pursue their career goals. VERDICT There are few visuals, but the lengthy narratives are well outlined and fact-filled for high school career inquiry. Consider for serious readers.

Barrington, Richard. Getting Paid To Blog and Vlog. ISBN 9781508172901.

Hand, Carol. Getting Paid To Produce Videos. ISBN 9781508172925.

Heitkamp, Kristina Lyn. Getting Paid To Make Games and Apps. ISBN 9781508172963.

Mihaly, Christy. Getting Paid To Make Cosplay Costumes and Props. ISBN 9781508173021.

Mooney, Carla. Getting Paid To Moderate Websites. ISBN 9781508173007.

Rauf, Don. Getting Paid To Manage Social Media. ISBN 9781508172949.

––––. Getting Paid To Work in 3D. ISBN 9781508172987.

ea vol: 80p. (Turning Your Tech Hobbies into a Career). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen YA. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $35.75.

Gr 7 Up –This series shows tech-savvy teens how digital forums, combined with one’s specialized knowledge, can lead to a profitable occupation in an expanding online world. Finding a niche is key, and hobbies or passions often play a role, as evidenced in Cosplay Costumes and Props. In Blog and Vlog, readers are urged to find a devoted audience, with an emphasis on sports and fashion videos. Many of the images are screenshots of applications or photos of people using interactive business or health organization portals and apps. The highly readable narratives describe skills, real-life successes, and specifics about getting started. Data on monetary compensation is vague, as might be expected for entrepreneurial pursuits, but the market for these talents appears limitless. VERDICT The DIY focus will attract resourceful and creative students who could start dabbling right away. A natural addition to collections where the maker movement is popular.

Bjorklund, Ruth. Costume Design in Theater. ISBN 9781502622778.

Bryan, Bethany. Set Design and Prop Making in Theater. ISBN 9781502622792.

Capaccio, George. Acting in Theater. ISBN 9781502622693.

––––. Lighting and Sound in Theater. ISBN 9781502622754.

Freedman, Jeri. Directing in Theater. ISBN 9781502622839.

Harmon, Don. Producing in Theater. ISBN 9781502622815.

Hubbard, Rita. Playwriting. ISBN 9781502622730.

Rauf, Don. Music in Theater. ISBN 9781502622716.

ea vol: 96p. (Exploring Theater). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $42.79.

Gr 7 Up –“The play’s the thing” in these volumes covering all components of theater life. Author expertise adds authenticity to each narrative—for instance, Capaccio’s professional knowledge about how to avoid lighting blackouts, a nifty lamp replacement technique, and the importance of synchronized work experience in Lighting and Sound. The titles are chock-full of specific details about production tasks and the type of skills or learning opportunities that can be honed in high school and college. In sections on personal qualities, authors echo the need for communication skills, teamwork, flexibility, and problem-solving. Numerous photos feature scenes from actual productions. Words of advice from prop master Eric Hart and sound designer Ben Burtt (creator of R2-D2’s voice) are among the many included interviews. Job tips and a long list of resources round out the comprehensive set. VERDICT These books offer an amazing amount of insider specifics for career reference or high school theater clubs.

Forrest, Glen. Police Technology: 21st-Century Crime-Fighting Tools. ISBN 9781508103790.

Murley, Leon. Working the Case: Law Enforcement, Police Work, and Police Organizations. ISBN 9781508103806.

Pender, Lionel. The Spy Game: International and Military Intelligence. ISBN 9781508103707.

––––. To Serve and Protect: The History of Policing. ISBN 9781508103813.

ea vol: 104p. (Law Enforcement and Intelligence Gathering). chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Britannica. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $36.25.

Gr 7 Up –Not your typical career selection, this series offers a retrospective view of policing in terms of the political and sociological influences and impact. Focusing on policies, methods, and practices that have developed over time, the titles address, as in Working the Case, the challenges of policing a close-knit community vs. a large city. While all volumes describe tools of the trade, Police Technology and The Spy Game detail advances in intelligence gathering, forensics, and tactics used in identifying suspects, analyzing information, and preventing crime. To Serve and Protect looks at the process of professionalizing and militarizing peace officers, who historically were thief catchers for hire, and opens a discussion of police abuse of power. Captions explain archival illustrations and images of today’s officers at work. Appended resources are invaluable for further inquiry. However, don’t expect to find Dictionary of Occupational Titles data (salary, training, employment outlook, etc.); rather, this is a big picture view of law enforcement. VERDICT An additional purchase where interest is high.

Furgang, Adam. 20 Great Career Building Activities Using YouTube. ISBN 9781508172642.

Furgang, Kathy. 20 Great Career Building Activities Using Twitter. ISBN 9781508172680.

Henneberg, Susan. 20 Great Career Building Activities Using Tumblr. ISBN 9781508172666.

Lew, Kristi. 20 Great Career Building Activities Using Pinterest. ISBN 9781508172703.

Lopez, Eduardo. 20 Great Career Building Activities Using Instagram and Snapchat. ISBN 9781508172727.

Small, Cathleen. 20 Great Career Building Activities Using Facebook. ISBN 9781508172628.

ea vol: 64p. (Social Media Career Building). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen YA. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $34.45.

Gr 7 Up –Harnessing teens’ interest in social media, this series steers them toward educational and professional pursuits and the creative arts. Each title starts with a company history, a bit of social context (“YouTube stars are often more popular than mainstream celebrities”), and a beginner’s how-to guide. Twenty ideas for positive usage include Tumblr for résumé developing, Pinterest for teaching hobbies, Twitter as a forum for message campaigns, and Facebook for business and organization pages. An accessible layout makes this ideal for a broad range of reading abilities, and a plethora of appended resources will help inquirers or educators who want to expand on the topic. VERDICT Highly recommended, as even tech-savvy teens will benefit from the Internet safety tips and guide to controlling their self-image or “brand.”

Harris, Patricia. Understanding Coding by Building Algorithms. ISBN 9781499428230.

––––. Understanding Coding Like a Programmer. ISBN 9781499428254.

––––. Understanding Coding Through Debugging. ISBN 9781499428247.

––––. Understanding Coding Through Simulations. ISBN 9781499428223.

––––. Understanding Coding Using Boolean Logic. ISBN 9781499428162.

––––. Understanding Coding Using Conditionals. ISBN 9781499428261.

ea vol: 24p. (Spotlight on Kids Can Code). glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $26.25.

Gr 4-7 –New volumes in this fine series (previously titled “Kids Can Code”) introduce tweens to analytical thinking and programming concepts of Boolean Logic, “if-then” conditionals, task completion modules, algorithm flowcharts, syntax (commands), and much more. The narrative is kid-friendly, connecting to already familiar concepts such as board game strategy. Titles show diverse groups of young people working with technology as well as images of coding, puzzles to solve, and short bios of notable techies. Bold vocabulary is explained in context and in the glossary. VERDICT Consider to inspire upper elementary and middle schoolers to start speaking and thinking like future digital designers.

Hynson, Colin. Dream Jobs in Engineering. ISBN 9780778729457; ISBN 9780778729693.

––––. Dream Jobs in Math. ISBN 9780778729631; ISBN 9780778729716.

––––. Dream Jobs in Science. ISBN 9780778729655; ISBN 9780778729730.

––––. Dream Jobs in Technology. ISBN 9780778729679; ISBN 9780778729907.

ea vol: illus. by Colin Hynson. 32p. (Cutting-Edge Careers in STEM). ebook available. glossary. index. photos. Crabtree. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $27.60. pap. $8.95.

Gr 4-7 –Know any future atom smashers? Inferno artists? Kids with planet-sized ambitions? Then they might wish to study particle physics, visual effects, or biostatistics. Resembling Prezi or Glogster slides, layouts are filled with bold photos and text in circles or slanted graphics. Each title profiles 10 jobs. Technology is especially forward-thinking, covering user experience designers, “cloud architects” (data storage), and “ethical hackers” (security testers). There is a color change for each entry, and the photos are current and accurately reflect the text. While job descriptions are an overview at best, the fact boxes and captioned images will draw middle schoolers to unique problem-solving careers, such as studying the “internet of things” and figuring out how to make smart objects communicate with one another. VERDICT No problem luring middle school techies to STEM with these entries on uber cool leading-edge jobs.

Kallen, Stuart A. Careers in Aviation and Aerospace. ISBN 9781682821015.

Roland, James. Careers in Mental Health. ISBN 9781682821084.

Uschan, Michael V. Careers in Law Enforcement. ISBN 9781682821060.

Wilcox, Christine. Careers in Emergency Response. ISBN 9781682821046.

ea vol: 80p. (Exploring Careers). chart. ebook available. further reading. index. photos. websites. ReferencePoint. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $29.95.

Gr 6 Up –Following the information categories of the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), each title profiles eight jobs in terms of working conditions, opportunties for advancement, future outlook, salary, etc. Clustering interest areas, the volumes include a general introduction, ancillary information, related job titles, and interviews. For example, in Emergency Response, the field is described as typically stressful and chaotic and table graphs show that falls, overexertion, and violence by other persons or animals are among the occupational hazards. A firefighter’s interview cites camaraderie and a sense of peace from assisting others as what he likes about the job. There is no glossary or vocabulary help but plenty of numerical data and “At a Glance” info. Training requirements include the nuances of different types of skills and educational paths. Much of the data is up-to-date through 2016. ­VERDICT OOH subheadings provide continuity for curriculum demands, while readers will be drawn to the anecdotes.

Reeves, Diane Lindsey. Architecture & Construction. ISBN 9781634726238; ISBN 9781634726436.

––––. Food & Natural Resources. ISBN 9781634726221; ISBN 9781634726429.

––––. Health Sciences. ISBN 9781634726245; ISBN 9781634726443.

––––. Information Technology. ISBN 9781634726252; ISBN 9781634726450.

––––. Law & Public Safety. ISBN 9781634726269; ISBN 9781634726467.

––––. Manufacturing. ISBN 9781634726276; ISBN 9781634726474.

––––. STEM. ISBN 9781634726283; ISBN 9781634726481.

––––. Transportation. ISBN 9781634726290; ISBN 9781634726498.

ea vol: 32p. (Bright Futures: World of Work). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $29.93. pap. $14.21.

Gr 4-7 –These interactive titles use clues readers can match to their own interests in order to arrive at one of the eight careers featured in each volume. Students are also prompted to write their thoughts on downloadable activity sheets. Job descriptions are brief but conversational, and the series succeeds in grabbing reader attention by initiating further exploration. Inset boxes offer websites and a “Start Now!” list of activities that relate to the topic—for instance, joining Scouts to develop skills to be an “emergency management coordinator” or helping younger students with computers in the media center in order to become a “help desk analyst.” It is noted that “some very smart career experts” devised the 16 career fields referenced throughout (using the National Career Clusters Framework), so it is possible eight additional books will be forthcoming. VERDICT For those in search of a strictly introductory entry into job categories with plenty of amped-up graphics and fact boxes.

It’s evident that many of the series, such as ReferencePoint’s “High-Tech Careers,” PowerKids’ “Spotlight on Kids Can Code,” and Cavendish Square’s “Exploring Theater,” reflect high demand for workers who not only embrace technology but also are good problem-solvers; as such, these sets are this season’s top picks. Personal technology use has opened up DIY opportunities, as seen in Rosen YA’s “Turning Your Tech Hobbies into a Career” and “Social Media Career Building”—two selections ideal for teen collections. For libraries looking for overviews, Cherry Lake’s “World of Work” and ReferencePoint’s “Exploring Careers” are useful, compendiumlike options. A focus on tech marks this latest season, offering many connections to STEM curricula.

Vicki Reutter, State University of New York at Cortland

For the latest nonfiction series reviews, check out the Spring 2017 Series Made Simple

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